It’s no surprise to any of you that I absolutely adore The Silence of the Lambs. You name the merchandise, I’ve probably got it. I can remember the first time I watched it so vividly, and it’s continued to captivate and transport me ever since. Jonathan Demme’s adaptation of Thomas Harris’ novel is a masterpiece and I’m so excited to finally share my detailed thoughts with you all. Here we go…
First off, Clarice Starling is up there on my list of top female characters. She’s strong, determined and smart, yet still has some vulnerability to her and there’s nothing wrong with that. I loved this honest portrayal of a young, trainee FBI agent and all the troubles she faces on the job. Jodie Foster did a stunning job of portraying her character and after reading the book, I can confirm she met my expectations completely. It’s refreshing to see such a three dimensional, well written female protagonist within the genre. Of course, she’s not the only one, but she was part of my introduction to the horror genre and I’m thankful for her. She showed younger me that horror has a place for educated, respected and smart women. Go Clarice. Both you and Jodie deserved that Best Leading Actress Oscar.
As for Anthony Hopkins as Dr. Hannibal Lecter, I honestly believe this is his greatest performance to date. His meticulous attention to detail when getting into the mind of a psychopathic cannibal was flawless. Despite only being on screen for 24 minutes, he delivered a chilling performance that won him the Best Leading Actor Oscar and infamy amongst horror fans. The Silence of the Lambs actually won 5 Academy Awards in total, and I can’t think of any film that year that was more deserving. Maybe I’m biased though. Lecter really is a fantastic character that many experts have praised as being a thorough and realistic depiction of how a psychopath’s mind works. He really nailed the character and continued to do so throughout the other films. It’s so nice to see an intelligent, darkly courteous and utterly terrifying villain portrayed this well. It’s hard to argue against that. I also loved the way the film deals with cannibalism in a non-gratuitous fashion. It’s very obvious what Lecter is guilty of, but the film doesn’t need gallons of blood or over the top violence in order to scare you. Anthony Hopkins’ acting style does that for you. It’s brilliant.
Whilst Hopkins and Foster steal the show, how could I forget Ted Levine as Buffalo Bill? If you thought Lecter was scary, wait until you meet this guy. He will literally skin you alive with zero remorse. With Lecter’s help, it’s up to Starling to apprehend and bring this guy to justice, and since he was named because he likes to ‘skin his humps’, who can blame her for being a little terrified? Not me. The way Levine plays Buffalo Bill is stunning, and it gives me chills just thinking about it. The scene where he dances to Q Lazzarus’ Goodbye Horses’ has gone down in history and gives us a chilling insight into just what he really desires. That scene will probably haunt your dreams actually, don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Moving away from the acting, The Silence of the Lambs also has an incredibly well-paced and well-written script. Whilst a lot of this is to do with Thomas Harris’ novel, director Jonathan Demme and screenwriter Ted Tally made it shine on the big screen. From lingering shots to fast-paced scenes, it keeps you gripped until the very end. The cinematography reflects this too, with a variety of impeccable shots, my favourite being the way Lecter is reflected in his cell window as he speaks to Starling. It’s well polished, iconic, and utterly terrifying. The stylistic choices in this film are well thought out, especially when dealing with the descriptions of crimes and murders throughout. It’s not as visually graphic as some horror films, but the verbal descriptions alone are enough to make your stomach churn. I really loved the way it makes the audience use their imagination, making it 10x more horrifying than anything special effects could achieve. Sometimes, not seeing is worse. The Silence of the Lambs puts the worst of the gore and horror in the hands of its spectator, instead of spoon-feeding them all the information.
Whether you want to call it a crime thriller, a psychological horror, or something else entirely, The Silence of the Lambs is the perfect film to watch this Halloween season (or any other time, ever). The characters have gone down in cinema history, and it’s full of twists and turns and iconic moments that you’ll never forget. It’s a film that will stay with me for the rest of my life, and I hope it has the same effect on all of you too.
Directed by: Jonathan Demme
Cast: Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, Lawrence A. Bonney, Ted Levine, Kasi Lemmons