Saturday, October 13, 2012

837. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

Running Time: 118 minutes
Directed By: Jonathan Demme
Written By: Ted Tally, from novel by Thomas Harris
Main Cast: Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, Scott Glenn, Ted Levine, Anthony Heald
Click here to view the trailer


For the past two seasons, the fiftieth movie viewed has made a considerable impact on it's respective TOP 20 list.  Two seasons ago "The Shawshank Redemption" nabbed the #2 spot of it's TOP 20 and last season it was "Se7en" that landed at the second best spot of it's TOP 20 list. Can "The Silence of the Lambs" take it one step further and step in as my sixth top spot? We shall see...

Like I said in my "Manhunter" review, the plot of "The Silence of the Lambs" is very similar to it's 1986 predecessor. FBI trainee Clarice Starling (Foster) is chosen specifically, by Jack Crawford (Glenn), to go on a special assignment. Despite the fact that she's yet to graduate from FBI Academy, Crawford gives Starling orders to report to the maximum security prison where Dr. Hannibal "the Cannibal" Lecter (Hopkins) is being held and get his insight into the newest wave of serial killings, being performed by Buffalo Bill (Levine). Starling is given strict orders on how to behave when around Lecter and despite the fact that he'll be contained inside a glass prison cell, she's told to be extra cautious. Lecter has fun playing head games with Clarice, but won't tell her anything outright, instead resorting to riddles and shooting her bits and pieces of useful information. After the work she does with Lecter, Starling is further utilized by Crawford to investigate the Buffalo Bill murders, a series of slayings that involve slightly overweight women being skinned. Meanwhile, Bill isn't halting his plans, kidnapping Catherine Martin, daughter of U.S. Senator Ruth Martin and keeping her in a pit, in his basement. As Starling and Crawford race to solve the identity of Buffalo Bill, Catherine's life hangs in the balance and Lecter is all but cooperative.


To me, the really amazing thing about "The Silence of the Lambs" is the subtleties. I watched this movie last night, for what seemed like the hundredth time and for the first time, noticed a few little intricacies that I'd like to share with you. There are probably dozens more buried in there and as they say, every time you watch a movie, you notice different, new things. The first new thing I noticed was during the initial conversation between Clarice and Lecter. Hannibal is quizzing Clarice, challenging her to think harder about the Buffalo Bill murders. He asks her why she thinks Bill skins his victims and she replies that most murderers keep a trophy from their victims. Lecter responds that he didn't keep trophies and Clarice bites back with "No, you ate yours". When the camera cuts back to Lecter, Hopkins facial expression is priceless and says a lot about the character. The expression is a stunned look, one that catches Lecter off guard, as if no one has ever accused him of being a cannibal in such a blunt way before. It's almost as if he didn't expect Clarice to be so direct with him and it's a priceless look.

The second interesting tidbit I picked out of "The Silence of the Lambs" was a more simple one, but one that I thought was kind of cool. During their initial conversation, Clarice notices a drawing hanging on the wall of Lecter's cell. He points out that it's the Duomo, as seen from the Belvedere. In the end, it's the town of Belvedere, Ohio where Buffalo Bill is finally captured. Now, I know what you're thinking, that my observation is kind of a stretch and really kind of stupid, but I think it's a neat little coincidence. Did Lecter know the identity and location of Bill the entire time and draw the picture to kind of toy with Clairce, amusing himself by telling her the city where she would ultimately find Bill, without telling her at all?

The other, intricate little detail I noticed last night, while watching this movie was the utterance, by Clarice, of "Bill" when she turns around to face the Buffalo Bill victim that has washed up out of the river, at the funeral home. It's sort of like this involuntary utterance that she can't help. As soon as she sees the defiled, dead, rotting body of the victim, it's as if her mouth can't help but to gasp the name of the perpetrator. It sounds like nothing, but I picked up on it right away and thought it was a very chilling moment.

Our first view of Dr. Hannibal "the Cannibal" Lecter (Hopkins)
I've used most of my time during this review to point out a few, interesting things that I've never noticed before, but have failed to really detail the true greatness of the picture. Not only is it in the intricacies, but also in the acting (Hopkins has never been better. period.) and in the way the film frightens you without really being a horror film. In fact, while most people will tell you that "The Silence of the Lambs" is a horror flick, I don't recognize it as such. My definition of a horror movie has always been a film about the supernatural, things that aren't real that still scare you - IE. ghosts, monsters, evil clowns, giant underground worms, dolls that curse and stab you, zombies and vampires. The haunting thing about "The Silence of the Lambs" is that it's about men - evil men. The film takes about ten - eleven minutes before it introduces us to Hannibal Lecter. In that ten - eleven minutes, it spends about four or five detailing what a monster he is and building him up as the villain to end all villains. In fact, they build better than any film has ever built up any monster or villain. And when we finally see him, do you know what we see? A man. Just a man. THAT'S why this film is so scary, because it doesn't present us with supernatural beings or any of the things I mentioned above; it presents us with men that COULD, HAVE and probably do exist. The bottom line is that when a fifty-four year old Anthony Hopkins can scare the bejesus out of you, you know you're onto something.

RATING: 9.5/10  And despite all of that, I still cannot, in good conscience, give this movie a '10'. I have no reason, other than it just didn't feel like a '10'. Damn, I'm getting to be a real picky son of a bitch!


October 13, 2012  11:21pm

No comments:

Post a Comment

SINS OF OMISSION - Entry #66: La piscine/The Swimming Pool (1969)

Running Time: 120 minutes Directed By: Jacques Deray Written By: Jean-Claude Carriere, Jacques Deray, Alain Page Main Cast: Alain Del...