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Film and Tv Narative: Manhunter

Essay by review  •  September 20, 2010  •  Essay  •  805 Words (4 Pages)  •  833 Views

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For this essay I am going to be looking at Michael Mann's 1986 film Manhunter. Manhunter is considered a cult film primarily known for containing the first cinematic incarnation of the character Hannibal Lecter. The film was not very successful on release and in addition to poor box office the film received a lukewarm critical response. Now, Manhunter is generally well regarded and considered by some as better than the much more successful Silence of the lambs. Silence of the lambs was the film which debuted Anthony Hopkins interpretation of the character and made Hannibal Lecter (for want of a better expression) a household name.

Manhunter is based on the book Red Dragon by Thomas Harris (subsequently filmed again by Brett Ratner using the books title.) A serial killer called the tooth fairy (real name Francis Dollerhyde) is killing a family each full moon. The FBI is making zero progress and so enlists the help of Will Graham, the man who caught Hannibal Lecter. Graham is prematurely retired due to the emotional and physical damage sustained in the capture of Lecter, but agrees to help. He visits Lecter to again enter the thought patterns of a serial killer.

Dollerhyde turns out to be more than your standard faceless villain and Mann introduces him as a character early on. We find out some of his back-story, he is a victim of child abuse. Mann humanises Dollerhyde just enough that we sympathise with him, but not too much. Dollerhyde encounters a blind woman named Reba who holds the promise of redemption but this opportunity proves too little too late as Dollerhyde has fallen too deeply into depraved insanity.

The use of colour in Manhunter is very dramatic. Green, purple and magenta feature heavily and in romantic scenes the image is almost entirely blue. Green and magenta are approximately complimentary colours and so create distinct compositional focus. An obvious association with red/magenta is blood and violence so when combined with green the impact is increased. This use of colour in association with the character of Dollerhyde highlights the nature of the character.

In the scene were Dollarhyde comes to Reba's door believing she has been unfaithful to him the use of colour foreshadows later events in the film. Again green and warm/magenta hues are employed. Green could be construed as being representative of life and this works in contrast with the red surrounding Dollerhyde in two ways. Reba is surrounded by green and represents life for Dollerhyde in that she is his last hope of salvation also the green can be symbolic as Reba's life as it will be threatened by Dollerhyde later in the film. How appropriate that he be framed in a warm reddish hue as she approaches him. All these uses of colour are worked into the film and we as the audience respond to them on an instinctive level.

Another scene is dramatic in its lack of colour, Graham visits Lecter in his completely white cell, this in

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