74. The Silence of the Lambs

A young F.B.I. cadet must receive the help of an incarcerated and manipulative cannibal killer to help catch another serial killer, a madman who skins his victims.

I always find it enjoyable to rewatch a film that I have seen a billion and one times through an analytical lens.

The Silence of the Lambs is one of my favorite films for a few reasons: 1. It’s just a well-acted, well written film. 2. I am constantly interested in serial killers and true crime and, although this film isn’t true crime, it still checks most of my boxes. And 3. The endless amount of references to this film in pop culture after its release.

 

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I mean, How I Met Your Mother did an entire “Pit Person” episode for goodness sake.

The opening scene to this film perfectly sets the tone for what we are about to watch. We see a young woman, who we soon find out is named Clarice Starling, running in the woods of Quantico. Music lies underneath the scene, never intrusive, blending in perfectly. Howard Shore really nailed that one.

Jodie Foster, who plays Clarice Starling, really fully takes on the character. I often find myself forgetting that it’s Jodie Foster that I’m even watching. And, that goes double for Anthony Hopkins, who has so little screen time, and yet creates such a haunting character. The frightening aspects of Doctor Hannibal Lector, I think, are also emphasized with the use of close-ups by director Jonathan Demme (RIP). The characters are all instructed to keep their distance from Hannibal Lector and yet Demme brings the audience within inches of his face nearly every time that he is on screen. It makes you uncomfortable, and yet you’re intrigued. The intensity of certain situations, such as every time Clarice and Hannibal talk or Hannibal’s escape scene, we find that the camera is used to greaten that feeling.

PARALLEL EDITING IS EVERYTHING IN THIS FILM. Sorry. Had to get that off my chest. Okay, so it’s not used throughout the entire film, but it is used leading up to the reveal that Clarice Starling is actually going to Buffalo Bill’s house, not Jack Crawford, as we have been lead to believe. It’s used so well to increase our emotions and it truly is brilliant.

Now, I want to talk about gender in this film, but I seem to be having trouble gathering my thoughts about it. So, I guess, let me try. Clarice Starling is chosen to question Doctor Hannibal Lector by Jack Crawford. Hannibal’s doctor, Doctor Chilton (who’s a douchebag in EVERY tv or movie portrayal, so that’s comforting), makes a statement along the lines of ‘you were chosen because you’re a woman and you’re pretty, and that will get Hannibal Lector to talk.’  And that sucks. She then has to show more masculine traits such as strength and fearlessness. She’s talking to a serial killer, who honestly probably wouldn’t talk to her if she was a man, about another serial killer that the FBI is trying to apprehend, one that is killing women and skinning them ultimately to make a skin suit of his own because he thinks that he’s transgendered because he doesn’t like himself and a woman is as far from himself that he can get when, in reality, he was so badly abused as a child and needs to seek the proper medical help aka not help from Hannibal Lector like he had done previously. You see, it’s all very complicated.

What do you think of this film? Do you think it deserves to be on AFI’s list of 100 greatest films? Do you think the lambs every stopped screaming? Have you ever had a census takers’ liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti? Let me know.

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