BOOK REVIEW: The Art and Making of Hannibal: The Television Series

Whenever I have spoken to someone about Hannibal the TV series, one of the first things I have almost always mentioned is the unrelenting feeling of darkness to almost every shot. I don’t just mean the subject matter but I have always felt it to be one of the most oppressive series I have ever seen. Well, wouldn’t you know it, the lighting is as meticulously crafted as many other aspects of the production and Jesse McLean’s book The Art and Making of Hannibal: The Television Series is full of tasty tidbits of information such as this.

A highly illustrated art and making of book featuring extracts of the shooting scripts of the first and second seasons, exclusive cast and crew interviews, behind-the-scenes photography, production notes, storyboards, Hannibal’s sketches and music notation. This volume would also include detailed sketches of the murder scenes and sets as well as food stylist designs of Hannibal’s most infamous dinner parties. The Art & Making of Hannibal will be a detailed look at the making of this highly original and visually stunning series. This will be a high quality title, lavishly produced and packed with great exclusive content.

Covering the first two seasons of NBC’s TV series, The Art and Making of Hannibal: The Television Series gives the reader various insights into the design and production methods that went into making the series what it is. Some of the things explained might come out of left-field, the reader realising they would never have guessed. Others, once suggested, lead to true face-palm moments where you wonder why on earth you didn’t pick up on that before.

The various sections of the book fall under a handful of categories: examinations of the characters and their motives, for the most part with input from the actors who play them. 3D renderings and maps of the various sets, showing layouts and aspects that aren’t even seen on-screen, such as Hannibal’s garden. The final category is the crime scene effects, detailed information about the processes, both mental, computer generated and mechanical, of setting up some of the series well-known murder displays. For the most part, the transition from one section to the next is logical and aids easy reading, the section on Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) flowing into a look at his home and Wolf Pack as an example.

I particularly liked the psychology of what was going on, which is little wonder in a book about a series that features a cannibal psychiatrist! Mads Mikkelsen, the actor that plays Hannibal, said something particularly interesting on the topic of living life to the full, which is something that Hannibal certainly does by way of his cooking and lifestyle. He said that we are used to seeing films and TV series in which the cancer patient or person living in poverty embraces the little things in life and tries to gain enjoyment from them. As viewers, we hardly ever see someone as evil and criminal as Hannibal doing the same thing, although as is later discussed, Hannibal probably wouldn’t view himself as evil.

The sections that dealt more with the technicalities of Hannibal were also very interesting, the ones looking at the score and set layout particularly so. The crime scene photos look suitably grisly and even having seen the bodies in the series, they seem much starker in freeze frame. I found it amusing the few times the network guidelines were mentioned, especially in relation to one scene in which the issue of what was acceptable wasn’t that the bodies were brutally mutilated, but that they were showing too much naked backside! I am always astonished that this kind of thing goes on, death and guns is fine but show a bit of flesh and you are in trouble!

I do have a couple of minor criticisms of the book however. The first is that there is a heck of a lot of back slapping and congratulating going on, especially in the early sections. I know people like to praise their colleagues and be nice but I did feel my mind start to go numb at the frequency of someone calling another a genius or the best in their field. My other criticism is that in a few sections, the colour of the font is not a good choice with the background image that lies behind it, leading to some eye straining to try to read clearly what the text says. It only happens in a few pages but when it does it seems a bit of a shame.

The Art and Making of Hannibal: The Television Series is a great read and gives the reader plenty of food for thought. The minor quibbles I have with it are far outweighed by the lovely photos, insights and discussions about the various aspects of the TV series. If you are a fan of Hannibal, I highly recommend you buy it and have a read, especially as the timing is perfect with regards to the series third season starting very soon indeed.


BOOK TITLE: The Art and Making of Hannibal: The Television Series

AUTHOR: Jesse McLean

ISBN: 9781783295753

R.R.P: £19.99

PUBLISHER: Titan Books


Rating: 4.5/5

Reviewer: Casey Douglass

Links: Titan Books / Images © NBCUniversal Media LLC. And Titan Books

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