#142 Silence Of The Lambs

(1991, Jonathan Demme)

“You will let me know when the lambs stop screaming, won’t you?”

Hannibal Lecter is one of cinema’s most well-known villains, and as a result of this fame, his film The Silence Of The Lambs is considered a major classic. Oddly enough, despite wanting to see this film for the longest time, I’ve only now got round to watching it. Was it worth the wait?

First, the plot. Despite what the praise would suggest, the cannibal psychiatrist Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) isn’t the main villain here. His purpose is actually to be interviewed by rookie FBI agent Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster), in pursuit of another killer, dubbed “Buffalo Bill”, who is notorious for kidnapping women, then murdering and skinning them after three days. What follows is a tangled plot that’s part crime drama and part horror movie, involving Starling being pushed to her limits trying to unravel Lecter’s mind games and catch the killer.

The Silence Of The Lambs is a fantastic crime movie from start to finish, and honestly kept me hooked for its entire runtime. Despite initially seeming like it wouldn’t be able to juggle two major villains with different roles, it all holds together perfectly well.

The scenes with Lecter and Starling are easily a key reason why the movie works as well as it does. Both Hopkins and Foster put in fantastic performances, with Foster walking a perfect line between professional and nervous throughout, while Hopkins is nightmarishly creepy with his cool demeanour and menacing stare. His accent is a little difficult to place and seems to waver between American and British a little, but for once this enhances the character rather than hinders it, making him seem a little off.

The way these scenes are shot also seriously ramps up the drama. The use of close-ups almost all the way through adds an uncomfortable intimacy to the scenes and the fact they’re barely shown in any angle beyond right in the faces of the two actors helps suck the viewer in completely.

These aren’t the only scenes, but it’s obvious why they’re the most memorable. Of course, if the rest of the movie was lacklustre, then it wouldn’t be worth it, and I’m happy to say that it is indeed worth it. The tense mood of the interview scenes manages to carry through to other scenes, and the climactic scenes in Buffalo Bill’s house/”dungeon” are edge-of-your-seat stuff.

The only scenes I have any criticism for are when Clarice occasionally has flashbacks to her childhood. They don’t really add much and generally seem to come from out of nowhere. It’s unclear if they’re supposed to help flesh out Clarice’s character or to add some surreal imagery to ramp up the tension, but the movie does well at doing both without these scenes already.

Any other criticism? Well, the actor playing Buffalo Bill is a little too over the top for his character. Yes, the character is supposed to be insane, but it feels like he takes it a little too far at times, especially when trying to act normal around Agent Starling. Mercifully, he doesn’t get much screen time, and what screen time he does gets is usually effective. He is very good at being unnerving, but is nowhere near as memorable as Hannibal Lecter.

It also felt a little disappointing that Lecter’s ultimate fate by the end of the movie is left mostly open. It also feels a little too convenient that he’d disappeared from the FBI’s grasp. Not necessarily asking for his full life story, but it seemed to scream “sequel hook” a little too much.

Overall though, I loved The Silence Of The Lambs. It’s definitely one of the best crime thrillers I’ve ever seen and I would happily watch it again. Easy to see why it won so many Oscars, really.

Starring Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, Scott Glen & Ted Levine
Written by Thomas Harris (novel) and Ted Tally
Produced by Kenneth Utt, Edward Saxon & Ron Bozman
Music by Howard Shore
Cinematography by Tak Fujimoto
Edited by Craig McKay

Favourite Scene: The first time Clarice encounters Hannibal. It’s the most well-known scene for a reason.
Scene That Bugged Me: Some of Jodie Foster’s acting wavers a little when she starts chasing after Buffalo Bill in the climax. It doesn’t last long though.

Watch it if: You have any interest whatsoever in dark crime thrillers
Avoid it if: You’re a child and are therefore too young for the film, but watch it when you’re older

Posted on December 13, 2012, in 1990s, Crime, Horror, Thriller and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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