My Favorite Movies #67 – The Silence of the Lambs

the silence of the lambs - posterThe Silence of the Lambs

1991

Directed by Jonathan Demme

Netflix says… In this adaptation of Thomas Harris’s novel, FBI trainee Clarice Starling ventures into a maximum-security asylum to pick the diseased brain of Hannibal Lecter, hoping the psychiatrist turned homicidal cannibal can help her catch a serial killer.

  • If you have a weak stomach, it’s probably best that you not watch along with me on this one.
  • Don’t get me wrong, it’s a fantastic movie. Wouldn’t have made my list if I didn’t think that.
  • But it’s definitely not for the faint of heart.
  • Honestly, by today’s standards, a lot of people probably wouldn’t bat an eye at this movie’s content.
  • I imagine that was a different story in 1991.
  • At the time of this film’s release, I was 11 and would have, therefore, never been allowed to watch it.
  • Eventually, in my teens, my mother relented.
  • Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) is introduced to us while she’s running an obstacle course at the FBI Academy.
  • I get tired just watching her climb the cargo net.
  • Starling’s training is interrupted when she’s called into Jack Crawford’s (Scott Glenn) office.
  • This is a guy who’s married to his job, made evident by the pillows on the couch in his office.
  • Clarice notices clippings and photos on Crawford’s wall which follow the case of serial killer “Buffalo Bill.”
  • Since Clarice is top of her class, Crawford wants her for an assignment. She’s to go and meet with Hannibal Lecter.
  • The pretense is that the Behavioral Science Unit is interviewing known incarcerated serial killers to help with unsolved serial cases.
  • Crawford doesn’t think that Lecter will actually speak with Clarice, but she’ll give it a shot.
  • At the hospital, Dr. Frederick Chilton, is super creepy. One of those guys who probably got ahead in life by being a sleazeball who stood on the shoulders of anyone he could.
  • Oh, and he hits on Clarice.
  • As does everyone, pretty much.
  • Lecter is kept in the basement of this hospital. Looks more like a dungeon.
  • It’s clear in her first encounter with Dr. Lecter that he is a brilliant man. Psychotic, but brilliant.
  • And he’s brilliantly portrayed by Anthony Hopkins.
  • Do you know he gets less than 20 minutes of screen time?
  • Now we come to the introduction of “Buffalo Bill” as he abducts his next victim.
  • And he gets her by preying on her desire to help him when he’s trying to load a chair into his van with a broken arm.
  • Ladies, never feel obligated to help someone load furniture in a van when there’s no one around. And also it’s late at night.
  • And that’s one to grow on.
  • I do like the way a lot of scenes are filmed, from Clarice’s perspective. It gives you the sense of just how uncomfortable she is being stared at when she’s the only woman, most of the time, in a room full of men.
  • And I don’t mean uncomfortable because she can’t handle herself in a room full of men. I mean uncomfortable because it’s clear what these sleazy men are thinking as they’re staring.
  • Soon we learn that Bill’s current victim, Catherine, is the daughter of a U.S. senator.
  • When Catherine’s disappearance is made public, Crawford agrees to let Clarice make an offer to Lecter.
  • If he can help them catch Bill before Catherine is killed, he’ll be transferred out of the dungeon.
  • But Lecter’s warden, Dr. Chilton, interferes and spills the beans that the deal was fake. So he makes his own deal.
  • This gives Hannibal his chance to escape. Because these people are morons. Chilton is chief among them.
  • My favorite line of the whole movie: “Oh, and Senator, just one more thing. Love your suit!”
  • Lecter gives the senator all the information he knows about Bill. But is he being honest?
  • Clarice is able to visit Lecter one last time while he’s temporarily in Memphis. She’s figured out that the name he gave the senator is an anagram and will lead the FBI nowhere.
  • Here’s where the weak stomach would come into play: Lecter’s escape.
  • His murder of his two guards is particularly gruesome.
  • Chris Isaak is one of the SWAT guys that arrives on the scene.
  • What, do they think Lecter is playing some kind of wicked game?
  • See what I did there?
  • Clarice figures out that Bill’s first victim, the third body found, had to have been someone he personally knew, based on hints that Lecter had been giving during his interviews.
  • She goes to the first victim’s home and figures out why Bill is doing what he does with the bodies.
  • When she tries to share that info with Crawford, he informs her that they figured out who he really is and a tactical team is on their way to the outskirts of Chicago to pick him up.
  • Clarice is ordered to keep prodding around the first victim’s home town to find more evidence tying Bill to the girl, making it easier to indict him.
  • The misdirection with the cutaways is brilliant. We are fooled into thinking that the team surrounding the house is doing so while a lot of drama is unfolding with Bill and Catherine in the basement.
  • Just as an agent rings the doorbell, and the bell rings in the basement, Clarice is ringing a doorbell, too.
  • Only she’s at Bill’s actual house.
  • She’s alone with the serial killer while the tactical team storms an empty house.
  • And she realizes it as soon as she sees one of the killer’s moths flying around the dining room.
  • They have a showdown in the basement. And can I just say, Bill’s house has an extensive basement. This place never ends.
  • Clarice wins. And they live happily ever after.
  • Well, not Buffalo Bill. Clarice killed him dead.
  • But Catherine makes it out of the pit alive.
  • Pretty sure Precious, Bill’s dog, survives, too.
  • Clarice graduates from the academy and gets a pleasant phone call from Dr. Lecter.
  • He’s not going to come after her and he would appreciate the same courtesy from her.
  • As he hangs up, he identifies his next victim: Dr. Frederick Chilton.

Sorry… this one got away from me a little. Such a good movie, though. Come back next week for another classic murder mystery: Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

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