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THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, 1991
Classic Movie Review

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THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS MOVIE POSTER
THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, 1991

Classic Movie Review
Directed by Jonathan Demme
Starring Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins
Review by Andrew Rowe



SYNOPSIS:

Dr. Hannibal Lecter. Brilliant. Cunning. Psychotic. In his mind lies the clue to a ruthless killer. - Clarice Starling, FBI. Brilliant. Vulnerable. Alone. She must trust him to stop the killer.

REVIEW:

In today’s crazy world where fast food is consumed multiple days a week, I wonder if Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lecter would get caught up in our current break-neck speed lifestyle. Instead of sitting down to enjoy his human flesh with a glass of fine wine, would he would stick it in a bun with a slice of processed cheese, some lettuce and a cola to wash it all down? Chomping it down while he speedily walks to the bus stop?

There aren’t many non-fictional characters you can speak openly about the crimes they’ve committed without upsetting people, nor are there many fictional ones. However one man’s violent actions can not only be talked about, but praised as well. “A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti.” This became a tagline during the early 90’s; it’s of course a line spoken by Hannibal Lecter in Jonathon Demme’s masterpiece The Silence of the Lambs.

The film starts off with a beautiful score conducted by Howard Shore. The camera follows Jodie Foster’s character, Clarice Starling in a way that suggests she’s being followed. She’s on a FBI obstacle course running hard and dominating any obstacle in her way. It turns out someone was following her, an officer that gives her a message that she must meet with Jack Crawford (Scott Glenn) of the Bureau’s Behavioral Science Unit. Clarice is then sent to interview the brilliant incarcerated psychologist, Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) to get his insight on the serial killer known as “Buffalo Bill”. He earned this moniker by skinning his female victims.

The two have a good conversation that eventually goes sour because Lecter becomes annoyed with Calrice’s attempts at “dissecting” him. Clarice leaves only to be greeted by body fluid from the man in the cell next to Hannibal. This angers Lecter who calls her back and gives her a riddle containing information of a former patient of his. This riddle leads to a severed head. Lecter offers to profile Bill in return for a transfer from his current facility.

In the meantime Buffalo Bill strikes again, abducting a young woman, the daughter of a United States Senator. A fake deal is offered to Hannibal who agrees, but then discovers it not to be true. A new deal is then made with the Senator’s permission. Lecter is transported to Tennessee where he reveals all the information he knows about Buffalo Bill. The severed head found had belonged to the lover of Bill. Lecter gives the real name of Bill, but Clarice believes it to be false information, possibly an anagram. She confronts Lecter about the false information he gave the senator. Lecter refuses to share until Clarice reveals the truth of her worst childhood memory. She does so, and Lecter gives the Buffalo Bill case file to her before being escorted away.

That night Lecter escapes his cell, brutally killing two men in the process. He escapes by pretending to be one of the officers, wearing his face over his own. Clarice is notified of Lecter’s escape, she then dives into the case file, scouring for information until she discovers Bill knew one of the victims before her murder. Clarice travels to the victim’s hometown where she realizes Bill is tailoring a woman suite made from flesh. She tells Crawford who informs her that they’re on their way to pick up Bill, who has been identified as James Gumb. Clarice realizes Crawford is wrong, while she continues interviewing around the town she discovers she’s found James Gumb. A pursuit through his house ends in the basement. Clarice takes down James Gumb.

What can been said about this film that hasn’t already been said? The film is made with a great attention to detail and is without a doubt an American classic. Entering the incarceration with Clarice is a classic movie sequence, as are many more throughout the film. Demme draws out the Lecter introduction scene, building our anticipation for Hannibal. When we finally stand there in front of him with Clarice, we realize what all the hype was about.

Lecter is only on screen for 16 minutes, which as of 2008 remains the shortest lead role ever to win an Academy Award. Hopkins uses these 16 minutes to create one of the most wicked villains film has ever seen. He remains behind bars or in restraints for all but a couple of those minutes, yet he’s still able to create a foreboding fear. You’re deftly afraid of the man, but would love to have a conversation with him. His charm and personality is so inviting that many would take the risk of ending up as one of his entrees.

Foster is just as deserving for her Oscar. Her subtle performance is a thing of perfection. Creating such a strong female character is not an easy task, but Foster certainly makes it look so. Clarice holds her on not only against the men at her department, Buffalo Bill, but Hopkins as well. The scenes between these two great actors are just so much fun to watch, plain and simple.

Demme uses a style of shooting with cinematographer Tak Fujimoto that has the actors staring straight at the camera. This method isolates characters, making conversations more intimate, putting you in the film, experiencing it with the characters. It’s a simple thing, but it goes a long way. The visuals, music, tight script, performances and pacing all work in tandem to create a unique film that although there have been many attempts, has yet to be replicated.

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