The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
US (dir. Jonathan Demme)
Cast: Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, Scott Glenn, Anthony Heald, Brooke Smith
Synopsis: An ambitious FBI agent enlists the aid of a criminally insane ex-psychiatrist to help track down a vicious serial killer.
Review: I think Jonathan Demme’s winning a Best Director Oscar for “The Silence of the Lambs” was one of the most worthy wins in the history of the Academy Awards. This is truly his greatest work, and one of my personal all-time favorite films.
There is truly something to be said about films that have re-watch-ability. In the case of “The Silence of the Lambs”, I feel as though I learn something new, or catch something different, every time I re-watch it. This is truly a complex film, dealing with three major characters who, over the course of the film, reveal themselves to the audience in numerous ways.
When I first saw this film, I could help but notice the many instances of overt sexism, mainly projected towards our imperfect heroine, Clarice Starling (a noobie FBI agent), a character near and dear to me as she possessed many of the same attributes (bravery, independence, perseverance, etc.) as I would hope to one day have. There is very a much a “boys versus girls” feel to this film, and Demme did a great job of capturing Clarice’s resilience in breaking through the barriers that her gender puts ahead of her and her unlikely relationship with Hannibal “the cannibal” Lecter who goes on to become a mentor, surrogate father figure, and as not so subtly hinted-at… maybe even a little bit more.
Many have argued that this is not quite a horror film, and that it borders more on the thriller category. Muddled genre classification aside, one has to admit that the Buffalo Bill character (an incredible performance by Ted Levine) exemplifies the atypical horror movie psychopathic serial killer, up in the same ranks as Leatherface (I mean, lady suit made of skins… “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” anyone?). I can see why folks would be quick to jump to the “it’s not horror, it’s a thriller” speech though, mainly because all the trappings of a typical crime procedural film (or even your run of the mill episode of “CSI”) outweigh the Buffalo Bill killings in coverage. So yes, “The Silence of the Lambs” does kinda fall more into the thriller category, but at the very least it’s the kind of thriller that verges ever so spectacularly into horror-land.
I really could go on and on about how fantastic this film is, but I’m sure you already know. The performances are outstanding, the direction is superb, the story is well-developed and engaging, the plot is entertaining, and the Hannibal Lecter character is never better. Seriously though, the Hannibal “the cannibal” Lecter character goes only downhill from here. I think Lecter gets at most like 20 minutes of screen time in this film, maybe less, and yet Hopkins’ performance would go on to win an Academy Award and spawn an entire Hannibal Lecter franchise. Too bad the later films would prove that too much Lecter was actually a bad thing.
If you’ve yet to see this seminal film, (lol, semen joke thrown in there for those of you who recall the scene with Miggs) hurry up already! There’s nary a classier horror/thriller dealing with cannibalism out there!