Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) – psychopath, cannibal and evil genius – is already behind bars in his first appearance in The Silence of the Lambs. His entrance to the movie is the stuff of legend. The camera pans around to Lecter’s prison cell. We see him standing still, wide-eyed with a level of arrogance unknown to the ordinary person.
In the scene, he is so savagely confident that he doesn’t seem human. He talks to rookie FBI agent Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) as if he’s known her for years and their relationship becomes the underlining spine of the film. The FBI think Lecter can help with their search for another serial killer, “Buffalo Bill” (Ted Levine). So, Clarice must earn his trust to gain information.
I can throw any number of adjectives, but none will do justice to Hopkins’ chilling performance that puts The Silence of the Lambs in classic territory. His portrayal of Lecter is both gracious and monstrous, often saying his lines in a reserved way. There’s no question Hannibal Lecter is one of the greatest villains ever. It’s the touch of wit and sweetness he shows to Clarice that makes him more likeable and enduring. We see Lecter through the eyes of Clarice, which draws us in further and it gives the film real uniqueness.
However, let’s not forget about Jonathan Demme’s camerawork and suspense-building. That brilliant visiting sequence is a testament to his directing, as well as how he blends horror and detective genres. Having swept all five Acadamy Awards, not crediting Demme would be an insult. He puts you face to face with the characters by using close-up shots. This isn’t anything revolutionary, but it’s so effective as it gets you involved with the plot. I never felt like a witness on my first viewing of The Silence of The Lambs, but rather a participant in the horror and mind games.
The weak point of the movie is not important, but there is one. The final showdown (the details of which I won’t spoil) gets rushed and it’s a little unrealistic. But against this minor flaw is a thrilling narrative with actors working at the top of their craft.
If you haven’t seen The Silence of the Lambs yet, then you must. Its cultural legacy is unlikely to fade.
Here’s the trailer!
Director: Jonathan Demme
Writers: Thomas Harris (novel), Ted Tally (screenplay)
Stars: Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, Ted Levine
Rent. Buy. Stream – The Silence of the Lambs