The year is 1944 and the place is Lithuania, where the Second World War has been brought to. Realising that their home and indeed their lives are in danger, the noble Lecter family decide to leave their castle and spend the rest of the war in an isolated cottage deep in the surrounding forest. They get out just in time, as the Nazis arrive soon after they have left, killing their remaining staff with a view to setting up a base there, recruiting locals sympathetic to their cause in the fight against the Soviet army. Little Hannibal Lecter believes he will be safe until a tragic encounter between a German fighter plane and a Russian tank brings his world down around his ears - but the worst is yet to come...
Since The Silence of the Lambs was released in a movie form, and after its massive success both critically and financially, it changed the landscape of horror and thriller fiction, and more specifically the manner in which each crossed over boundaries to raid elements from each other. Of course, there was much of this in the Italian giallo genre, but the character of Hannibal Lecter truly popularised the style and before long it was impossible to visit a cinema or watch a TV cop show without seeing some kind of criminal genius with a depraved penchant for some nastiness or other.
This meant that the creator of Lecter, writer Thomas Harris, found himself stuck with providing the public with as much Lecter as he could think up, with all of his books after Black Sunday featuring the character to a greater or smaller extent. There's no denying Harris' talent with a solid pageturner, but there were those who felt that perhaps he should be turning his attention to something new when it was announced he was to be producing a prequel for his most famous creation. The book might not have been his best, but for those that wanted it did fill in the gaps even if the impression was that it was done less for the love of artistry and more for the financial gain it would engender.
But let us give Harris the benefit of the doubt as Hannibal Rising in novel form still had the pleasure of his precise and intelligent prose to offer a worthwhile read. The film adaptation, which he wrote himself at the same time, was less satisfying, and the chief drawback seemed to be that while the author was giving rise to a horror novel that had as much class as his previous work, on the screen the effect was less classy and more stuffy. Yes, there were the gory setpieces, but they were all at sea in a gloom of would-be elegance that said, never mind all those Saw movies and countless other derivatives, here was an item that was a cut above all those others. That's right: this was a shocker that was as much a snob about its material as its protagonist was about his life.
This meant the sense of glee that Lecter took in his crimes (and if anything, that the audience and readership took in them) was replaced with a worthy and morose sense of righteousness as Hannibal took it upon himself to avenge himself on the gang of Lithuanian heavies, led by a bizarrely cast Rhys Ifans, who had murdered his sister and used her body to stave off the starvation that East European winter was threatening to kill them all with. First Lecter has to grow up, but that is taken care of in a trice thanks to an "8 Years Later" caption, and the rest of the film plays out as an instalment of I Was a Teenage Serial Killer (with a grudge), starring Gaspard Ulliel in a well-nigh unplayable role such is the weight of expectation on his shoulders. As it was, it turned out that interest in the film was low now there was no Anthony Hopkins to relish, so Young Hannibal remained a footnote to a successful series of films. Music by Ilan Eshkeri and Shigeru Umebayashi.