The Love Story Hasn’t Started, And Dolarhyde Already Breaks My Heart

dolarhydemirror1Was that as amazing for everyone else as it was for me? I still can’t say whether it was despite the fact or more because of the fact that there was essentially no dialogue involved, but wow- I couldn’t have been more impressed with our introduction to the NBC Hannibal’s version of the character of Francis Dolarhyde.

When I first listened to the source material, the audiobook version of The Red Dragon by Thomas Harris, I knew that this role would be unlike anything Richard Armitage has ever done. It all comes down to the little boy, the small Francis, known to himself as “Cunt-Face”, born with a severe cleft palate and whose mother promptly abandoned to an orphanage, left to the mercies of an apathetic system and the cruelties of the pack. Young Francis Dolarhyde, whose Grandmother later retrieved him not to offer him unconditional love and a home with family, but as a means to torment her daughter and flaunt the imperfect child as a failure, a fly in the ointment of the new “perfect family” life his mother hoped to have. The boy’s story is both infuriating because simple human decency would have made all the difference, and terrifying, as you experience Grandmother’s methods… I think this excerpt from the book illustrates nicely the type of villain we have in the evil old woman, who Francis sees as his saviour and strives so ineffectually to please:

Francis Dolarhyde, five years old, lay in bed in his upstairs room in Grandmother’s house. The room was pitch dark with its blackout curtains against the Japanese. He could not say “Japanese.” He needed to pee. He was afraid to get up in the dark.
He called to his grandmother in bed downstairs.
“Aayma. Aayma.” He sounded like an infant goat.
He called until he was tired. “Mleedse Aayma.”
It got away from him then, hot on his legs and under his seat, and then cold, his nightdress sticking to him.
He didn’t know what to do. He took a deep breath and rolled over to face the door. Nothing happened to him. He put his foot on the floor. He stood up in the dark, nightdress plastered to his legs, face burning. He ran for the door. The doorknob caught him over the eye and he sat down in wetness, jumped up and ran down the stairs, fingers squealing on the banister.
To his grandmother’s room. Crawling across her in the dark and under the covers, warm against her now.
Grandmother stirred, tensed, her back hardened against his cheek, voice hissing. “I’ve never sheen…….”
A clatter on the bedside table as she found her teeth, clacket as she put them in. “I’ve never seen a child as disgusting and as dirty as you. Get out, get out of this bed.”
She turned on the bedside lamp. He stood on the carpet shivering. She wiped her thumb across his eyebrow.
Her thumb came away bloody.
“Did you break something?”
He shook his head so fast droplets of blood fell on Grandmother’s nightgown.
“Upstairs. Go on.”
The dark came down over him as he climbed the stairs. He couldn’t turn on the lights because Grandmother had cut the cords off short so only she could reach them. He did not want to get back in the wet bed. He stood in the dark holding onto the footboard for a long time. He thought she wasn’t coming. The blackest corners in the room knew she wasn’t coming.
She came, snatching the short cord on the ceiling light, her arms full of sheets. She did not speak to him as she changed the bed.
She gripped his upper arm and pulled him down the hall to the bathroom. The light was over the mirror and she had to stand on tiptoe to reach it. She gave him a washcloth, wet and cold.
“Take off your nightshirt and wipe yourself off.”
Smell of adhesive tape and the bright sewing scissors clicking. She snipped out a butterfly of tape, stood him on the toilet lid and closed the cut over his eye.
“Now,” she said. She held the sewing scissors under his round belly and he felt cold down there.
“Look,” she said. She grabbed the back of his head and bent him over to see his little penis lying across the bottom blade of the open scissors. She closed the scissors until they began to pinch him.
“Do you want me to cut it off?”
He tried to look up at her, but she gripped his head. He sobbed and spit fell on his stomach.
“Do you?”
“No, Aayma. No Aayma.”
“I pledge you my word, if you ever make your bed dirty again I’ll cut it off. Do you understand?”
“Yehn, Aayma.”
“You can find the toilet in the dark and you can sit on it like a good boy. You don’t have to stand up. Now go back to bed.”

So yes, as we are drawn into the past by Harris’ narrative, it is impossible not to empathize with this tormented child. I was absolutely confident that Armitage would feel it, too, as he prepared for the role, and I have known that we would have an opportunity to feast upon psychological nuances heretofore not seen in other characters portrayed by Armitage: a deeply damaged child.  What was so rewarding to me, then, was that without any actual dialogue, Richard Armitage’s portrayal of Francis Dolarhyde was unbelievably spot on in bringing that vulnerability out to play.

http://fringeofmadness.tumblr.com/post/124908836935/ω

Not that peristalsis really pertains to an essentially solid anatomical part, like a THIGH, but damn, that comes close. Gif from http://fringeofmadness.tumblr.com/post/124908836935/ω

Like anyone else watching, I was mesmerized by the opening sequences that show Dolarhyde deep in his own skin, twitching and flexing and undulating as he indulges in his inner tumultuous transformation, seeking respite from the inadequacies of a lifetime by creating something fierce and powerful and otherworldly in the form of The Great Red Dragon he will unleash.

 

 

Sinuous

Not sure when I’ve been so transfixed on a ripple of muscle traveling down the side of a torso. Absolutely serpentine… I could feel The Dragon under there, and it elevated my apprehension in just the way that I imagine well-done horror is intended to do…

These scenes were fascinating, and breathtaking in their way, and very effective in inspiring the sort of fear and awe that the monster requires. They also very adeptly set up the paradoxical situation in which we are meant to view Francis Dolarhyde- that despite a craniofacial defect, a fractured psyche, and decidedly abhorrent urges, he still possesses attributes that we can find alluring. He has a beautiful body that he hones, and as we will see later, he has at least a corner of decency and even innocence somewhere on the inside, a part of him that abhors what he is “Becoming” when it threatens to destroy the one beautiful and wholesome thing in his life.

FDmirror2

Richard Armitage channels the vulnerability and self-loathing of the young boy who grew into Francis Dolarhyde.

Yet, as gorgeous as those scenes were… for me, the true brilliance in our introduction to Francis Dolarhyde took place in front of the broken mirror, as Francis stood with a heartbreaking combination of determination and self-contempt, practicing speech sounds. There in front of the mirror, visibly gathering his resolve to try again, we see little, almost involuntary helpless gestures with hands. We see him lift his chin a notch. We see his chest rising and falling. We see him flinch, and scowl, and viciously smack himself with brutal committment as he repeatedly tries to say something, though what it is he tries to say, I’m still not sure. Armitage beautifully channels the damaged, chastised child here, and it was mesmerizing to behold.

vlcsnap-2015-07-26-11h26m25s534

And may I just say… eyelashes!

Again I saw the little boy in the scrapbooking scene. Something in the way Francis hastily cuts out the article, then carries his book with almost child-like reverence, to the table. I loved how he takes a moment to view the picture of himself as a young boy with Grandmother, then turns it over/brushes it aside with impatient disgust, and begins slapping the glue and articles into the scrapbook almost haphazardly. Quite the contrast from Hannibal’s treatment of the same article, so precisely and elegantly handled as he prepares to send his greetings to Will Graham. Francis, on the other hand, is comparatively clumsy in his work, knocking over a container of pens, and scribbling over the moniker “Tooth Fairy” with the messy desperation of a frustrated youth. Here is this 40-something man, but he just channels that which is unschooled, leaving his vulnerabilities on the table.

Anyway, if a few short scenes, some tortured noises, some postures of damaged psyche and child-like behavior patterns can have already softened me toward this monster, it’s looking like the introduction of the love story with Reba will be that much more difficult to “square with reality” when it comes to Francis Dolarhyde. Richard Armitage has nailed it so far, and absolutely left me craving more.

Congratulations, Richard! It was a stunning debut on U.S. Network television. =)

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30 comments

  1. Guylty · July 27, 2015

    Completely agree. I see we are of the same mind 😉 He has delivered on the “tour de force” which we both diagnosed when the trailer came out. (Well, I suppose because the trailer comprised half his turn in ep 08 😀 ) In any case, Armitage is executing exactly what I felt re Dolarhyde in the book – a huge amount of empathy and compassion for this apparent monster.
    Will we already meet Reba in the next episode, you think?

    Like

    • jholland · July 27, 2015

      I’m certain we will meet Reba next episode. Stills from episode 9 are up on http://www.farfarawaysite.com/section/hannibal/gallery3/gallery9/hires/9.jpg and show our gal…
      Yes, he not only gave me the apprehensive creepy-crawlies, then he turned around and gave me the urge to lay a gentle hand upon his forehead and whisper that everything is going to be ok. Even though it’s NOT. =)

      Like

      • Guylty · July 28, 2015

        Oh, I forgot about that, yes… I kind of re-scanned the book a couple of days ago and was surprised how late in the book the whole Reba story line comes in. Hence my surprise that it is already happening in the “second” episode of the show.
        You know what – I had *exactly* that image (of soothing Dolarhyde with the “human touch”) in my mind, too. If only it were that easy to stop a killer. But then again, that’s what (romantic?) women/people dream – that love is the remedy for all sins.

        Liked by 1 person

        • jholland · July 28, 2015

          Yes… the character draws out my motherly instincts, and other instincts because, well… dayum. It looks like they’ll be moving forward with the love story rather quickly as the tiger still is in episode 10. =)

          Like

        • Guylty · July 28, 2015

          That’s fatal news for empathizers like us… Abyss, here I come…

          Liked by 1 person

        • jholland · July 28, 2015

          *waves up at you*

          Like

        • Guylty · July 28, 2015

          Already there? LOL Wait, I’m hurtling towards you. (At least I’ll fall softly.)

          Liked by 1 person

        • Servetus · August 3, 2015

          I would say men dream it too. A man wrote this book, after all.

          Like

        • jholland · August 3, 2015

          Good point. Though you don’t see nearly as many men writing/reading romance, a lot of male writers do incorporate at least a romantic element into the fiction…

          Liked by 1 person

        • Servetus · August 3, 2015

          They may not read it this stuff for fun, but they think it all the time. The men I know tend to be much more interested in “that woman who’s perfect for me” than the women I know are in the “the exact right guy.” And it’s a very regular tendency for men to make women responsible for their feelings and actions on this basis (I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard from a male friend or acquaintance something along the lines of “If she were really the one, I’d want to [fulfill something I feel is an obligation] instead of doing it because I have to. I just need to find the woman who makes me feel that way”).

          Like

        • jholland · August 3, 2015

          Ah… to be “the one”… the one who inspires the desire to mow the lawn simply by virtue of being so incredibly special!

          Liked by 1 person

  2. trudystattle · July 27, 2015

    Wow, great synopsis of his ability to channel the tortured child. His ultimate innocence in his horrific upbringing will always muster sympathy. His insanity was not his own making, but in the cruelty he endured.
    I haven’t seen it yet, but may have to take a peek.

    Like

    • jholland · July 27, 2015

      Hannibal is never going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but there is SO MUCH there to feast upon in terms of the nuanced performance that we all so keenly appreciate when it comes to RA. It’s hard to believe at times that it is RA, so completely does he immerse himself in this strange, creepy, yet compelling and tragic figure.

      Like

  3. Tessa · July 27, 2015

    This episode with Mr. Armitage, though relatively short, had such impact, I think those that watched felt it too..Without uttering a word, this man, this actor, grabbed us and drew us in….He was incredible in the role, and proved yet again, just how talented and passionate he is about his craft…Such a brilliant performance….

    Like

    • jholland · July 27, 2015

      Yes… it was a stunning performance. I know RA will continue to deliver as the story progresses, and I’m likely to be a big, emotional mess when it’s all over. =)

      Like

  4. Tessa · July 27, 2015

    Reblogged this on One Last time? Never and commented:
    An incredible performance, an incredible actor

    Liked by 1 person

  5. jholland · July 27, 2015

    Oh, and I forgot to mention that Hubby gave RA the official “thumbs up” when it comes to “getting his freak on”… he also treated me to some really interesting interpretations of the “snake moves” and the weird-ass squeal that Dolarhyde made. =) Good thing I’d already watched the episode elsewhere when we sat down for the network premiere, or I’d have had to muzzle my husband. LOL

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Buffy Brinkley · July 27, 2015

    Brilliant blog. Couldn’t agree more. In fact, I was almost crying reading it here. Having read the book several times, the compassion for a monster becoming that Thomas Harris inspires was doubly so in Richard’s embodiment of Dolarhyde. BTW, in his speech practice, he’s saying “sixty-six.” It’s the number that exponents the “S” sound that he has so much difficulty pronouncing. I have no doubt that Richard will make me cry for his Dolarhyde before it’s all over.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jholland · July 27, 2015

      Is that what he’s saying? Yes, now that I think about it, that is what it sounds like. I replayed that sooo many times trying to puzzle it out, wondering if I needed to try to track it down in the audiobook or if it was even mentioned in the book. LOL. Thank you! And I’m in the same boat, having that uncomfortable feeling that I’m about to become seriously emotionally invested in a hopeless and tragic character arc. =)

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Buffy Brinkley · July 27, 2015

    Reblogged this on The Wandering Poet and commented:
    I was going to write a blog about Francis Dolarhyde, but read this and thought: why? This one says it all!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Perry · July 27, 2015

    Really good post. It took me three viewings to figure out “sixty-six). I just don’t know if i’m going to be as sympathetic in terms of his childhood and the underpinnings of his murderous actions. I think I’m going to have to accept Dolarhyde as what he is now, though the tragic love story may tear some heart strings.

    Like

    • jholland · July 27, 2015

      Sigh… I wish I could divorce myself from my sympathies, but then again, this aspect of having the empathy, and more importantly, how Richard Armitage creates the empathy through his portrayal, has been what has excited me since I first found out about this role. Just any old serial killer role wouldn’t necessarily have appealed to me in the same way- though I know myself well enough now that I’d watch Richard Armitage take on just about anything. Sort of how I feel about the Bridget Cleary project- though I’m not sure we know for sure what role he has, I had the impression that he’s going to be the husband, and I doubt I’ll like him.

      Like

      • Perry · July 27, 2015

        I think my disconnect with the character is that I don’t think one’s childhood makes one schizophrenic or insane, ( but see contra http://www.livescience.com/18453-child-abuse-brain.html) though it could have a psychological impact giving rise to mental illness of some sort. I may be able to sympathize with him fighting his insanity and losing. Sad and heart-breaking as his childhood was,( talk about bullying!) I know, for me, it’s not going to count that much in excusing or understanding how he turned out. ( which has nothing to do with the actor – though if the actor can change this feeling in me, he’ll have achieved something unexpected).

        Liked by 1 person

        • jholland · July 27, 2015

          Well, there is no doubt that psychological trauma can give rise to mental illness and disturbing/self-destructive behaviors. Case in point with PTSD, which I’ve witnessed in my brother since his return from 4 tours in Iraq. And especially in light of some of the recent advances in neurology, it looks like there is a good chance that there are physiological underpinnings for many diseases that fall into the realm of psychological illness… just haven’t been fully worked out/discovered yet. Thanks for the article. Interesting. I don’t think I’ll ever be a the point where I could excuse Francis’ crimes, or think he doesn’t deserve to pay for his crimes… but I think I will have much food for thought and a whole new appreciation for RA’s capabilities.

          Like

        • trudystattle · July 27, 2015

          The question naturally arises: would he have turned into a murderer without the physcological damage inflicted by his own grandmother?
          I actually don’t know the book or the character history, but my personal inclination is to blame the evil actions of the grandmother for beginning this chain of horror. Her deeds are criminal: the original culprit, to my thinking.

          Like

        • jholland · July 27, 2015

          The young Dolarhyde didn’t have sick inclinations, though they did start to emerge later on as he moved into adolescence. His Grandmother was just awful, yet he idolized her because she was the one who brought him home from the orphanage, and having been mistreated there as well, he didn’t particularly know he was deserving of any special treatment, so his Grandmother’s actions just reinforced his feelings of being an ugly, dirty, unlovable freak. I personally think if he’d had a grandmother who turned over and held him, soothed him, nurtured him when he ran to her scared in the night, rather than menacing his boy parts with scissors… his sweetness and finer attributes would have developed and I doubt he’d become a menace to society as he did. Maybe he would have always been weird, but I’d like to think harmlessly so.

          Liked by 1 person

        • Perry · July 27, 2015

          Oh, there’s no doubt in my mind about how he’s going to rock this role (oops) – but then, we know he has tremendous talent and versatility. We just haven’t seen all of it yet. This is definitely going to be something new and wonderful.

          Liked by 1 person

  9. Hariclea · August 3, 2015

    that is one lovely eyelash gif/pic One of the things i regret with this darkish lighting is that we don’t see as much of them as we usually do 🙂 I didn’t pity hum much yet based on ep1 of the story, but we’ll see where this goes. At the moment i am very very scaaaareeed. Hope all is ok and that you were able to see the 2nd ep as well 🙂

    Like

    • jholland · August 3, 2015

      Oh, certainly I saw it in its entirety twice, then reviewed the FD scenes a few more times for good measure! I like the lighting in that it feels more ominous, but agreed that it can be hard to catch little nuances of facial expression. Who knew Richard Armitage could be soooo creepy! Lol

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hariclea · August 4, 2015

        yes, far too creepy for comfort! for once i don’t want to dream about him LOL

        Like

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