Staff Recommendation - The Silence of the Lambs

Posted 4 July 2014 about MIDNIGHT MARAUDERS - The Silence of the Lambs.

The Silence of the Lambs

Since its launch last September we've shown some knockout films in our monthly Midnight Marauders slot. But the one I'm most excited about finally hits the Showroom this month, when Jonathan Demme's 1991 masterpiece The Silence of the Lambs will produce big screen scares once more.
 
Screening at the Showroom on Friday 25 July, The Silence of the Lambs is - as many people reading this will likely be aware - an adaptation of Thomas Harris' best-selling novel, in which the FBI are attempting to catch a sadistic serial killer known only as Buffalo Bill. With the trail gone cold, the FBI take a gamble and send trainee agent Claire Starling to pick the brains of genius psychologist - and imprisoned cannibal - Dr Hannibal Lecter.
 
Put like this, the film risks sounding like standard thriller schlock. And with two decades of Lecter parodies - most recently by Kermit the Frog - and three risible sequels trailing in its wake, nowadays it is easy to write The Silence of the Lambs off.
 
... Until, that is, you actually watch it.

Thrilling, witty and fiercely intelligent, The Silence of the Lambs is one of only three films in Oscars history to win all of the Big Five Academy Awards (Best Actor, Actress, Director, Screenplay and Film), and with very good reason.

The movie's driven by powerhouse performances from Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster. As played by Hopkins, Lecter's sly charisma actually makes him a welcome, if unsettling, alternative to the small-minded officials Clarice is forced to negotiate with - until he starts eating people's faces, that is. It is this skilful manipulation of the audience's sympathies that makes the film pack such a powerful punch.

It is Hopkins who became iconic but Foster who carries the film. Her resourceful, clever and naive Clarice provides the bright spark in an otherwise bleak world. Check the scene where, trying to rise to the challenge the case has thrust upon her, she struggles to maintain an air of nonchalance whilst explaining to a gum-chewing security guard the procedure he must follow if a faulty garage door crushes her to death. It's a masterclass in underplaying.
 
If, like me, you've watched this film many times, you'll know that The Silence of the Lambs is a gift that keeps on giving. More than "just" a taut, painstakingly crafted crime procedural, in a complex and fearlessly intelligent way the film digs deeply into questions of gender, sexuality and (national) identity. The USA it portrays is drably grim, filled with backwater towns so oppressively dull that starting a sewing circle with a serial killer seems like a fun way to spend one's time. It is a world of drizzly misery, made all the more gloomy by Howard Shore's brooding score.

This is a film that poses tough questions without giving easy answers, and it is this quality that has given The Silence of the Lambs such endurance. The closing scene of the film leaves the audience hanging - 23 years on from The Silence of the Lambs' initial blockbuster release, and we're still searching for answers.

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Sarah Christie

Customer Services AssistantRead more posts by Sarah Christie

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