Rating: 9 out of 10.

Have the lambs stopped screaming, all these thirty years later? Certainly not. The Silence of the Lambs remains as ominous as it ever has, and still best watched with a nice glass of Chianti. Can’t get your hands on some? I guess this review will have to do then.

The Silence of the Lambs needs no introduction. But for those who know nothing about it: 1) where have you been? and 2) it’s based around Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster), an inexperienced FBI agent in training, who seeks help from the infamous Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins), an imprisoned cannibal and former psychiatrist, to catch a serial killer, Buffalo Bill (Ted Levine), who skins his female victims.

I am the only one who finds these titles really frustrating? The King of Comedy? What’s that about? The needless ‘the’s are ruining perfectly decent names. The Silence of the Lambs is brilliant – but wouldn’t Silence of the Lambs be so much better? I’ll answer that question for you. Yes. Right, with that out my system, let me tell you a little about The Silence of the Lambs…

Let’s quickly debunk something. It may be described as a psychological thriller, it may be described as a horror, it may even be described as a neo noir. And while The Silence of the Lambs is, no doubt, all these things, it’s one genre above all the rest: romance. Of course, it’s kept very subtle – they wouldn’t want to give it away – but beneath it all, isn’t it just a slightly dark and twisted rom-com? Hannibal Lecter with his deadpan one liners, and on the other side of the bullet proof glass, Clarice Starling, ambitious and desperate to make it to the top. So why do we crave the Lecter-Starling dynamic? Because of the bullet proof glass between them. Clarice will never be with Hannibal, and Hannibal will never be with Clarice.

I think it’s something the series version captured quite well, at least in the second season, was this impossible love Dr Lecter feels. I don’t think he’s attracted to Starling, and this seems to be something she craves, in a very male orientated FBI, with the likes of Jack Crawford and Fredrick Chilton. It’s something much deeper, deeper than simple love, that he feels. He wants to know about her – her traumatising past, her aspiration, the inner depths of her mind. He’s a psychiatrist who’s found the perfect patient.

Can I just say: What. A. Performance.

Look at that sentence above. The genius of the film is that statement could pretty much apply to anyone. But today, I’m going to say what a performance by Jodie Foster. She doesn’t get as much praise as her counterpart Hopkins, but she really is the glue that holds the whole film together. She captures that vulnerability and fear in Clarice, which makes the clash between her courageous performance all the more suspenseful, thrilling and, most of all, interesting. I couldn’t see anyone else play the role, or at least as well as Ms Foster. She’s fearless, but at the same time, human. I talked about the restricted amount of leading female roles in my review of Panic Room, and you do feel the 1991 film was well ahead of it’s time, giving Foster the template to shine.

Few Hollywood films ever try to confront sexism, but when they do, they often radically overplay their cards. The Silence of the Lambs does the opposite of this, underplaying, and definitely seems to win this round of betting. We notice it in small doses – the lift full of men, the sleaziness of Dr Chilton, the half-a-beat-too-long handshake from Jack Crawford. Clarice Starling is pretty much all female insecurities culminated into one character, and what makes her is she overcomes this all to win. She defies expectations, without us even realising she’s doing it. Very often, the camera is used to see through her point of view – and very often, we see men staring uncomfortably down the barrel.

This discreet sexism is not imperative to the plot, but it creates a very important subtext for our main character, that gives her more onion skin layers. So when she is being stalked by Buffalo Bill in the dark, a man who deliberately targets females, we feel all the more determined to see her succeed.

In my Hannibal review I said “I might even be willing to say he’s (Mads Mikklesen) a better Lecter than Hopkins himself, which I know is a bold statement, but he’s just got such a natural charm, wit and sophistication.” I take back everything. His chilling, icy blue eyes, darting around the room, always one second ahead of the game, gives me shivers every time. He’s only in about 16 minutes of the film, but imagine if he wasn’t. In truth, he’s only a side character. But Hopkins performance is so dominating – is so good – that he’s all we really remember.

In a way, it’s the films main flaw. While we should be focusing on Starling’s hunt of Buffalo Bill, designed to be the main villain, Hopkins overshadows it all and ends up being like a beacon to us moths. Ted Levine as Buffalo Bill is spectacular, being disturbingly creepy just the right amount, but what should be the main part of the plot ends up feeling like just a side project, when it should be the other way round.

The Silence of the Lambs is neither just the two performances of Foster and Hopkins, but the chemistry between them. It’s two performers coming from completely different backgrounds and spectrums, and in four scenes together, they thrive. Lets take a watch of this video:

Wow.

Lecter is fascinated by emotion, something he doesn’t experience, while Clarice is fascinated by his psychosis, something she doesn’t experience. As I said above, Clarice is human, while Hannibal has an almost godly feel to him. There’s a balancing scale, and while Hopkins at times oversteps it, Foster is perfect. The scenes between these two probably won them the Oscars alone. Not only that, they’re probably the best scenes we’ve ever seen in the history of film. Just to see two brilliant actors riffing off of each other, in a quid pro quo agreement, leaves not much to be desired. It’s poignant, it’s suspenseful, it’s like a crossover between a chess game and magic mushrooms. Enthralling, tense, a game of minds, with some magical colours and tangible sensations.

If there’s ever a film that I longed for more time with, it’s The Silence of the Lambs. The ending, when it came though, was both brilliant and unsettling. This is a thriller you won’t be able to forget. It drags you in, wraps itself around you and when the elaborate coat slumps from your shoulders, you wonder why. Because at no point during the film do you slump. You’re upright. Listening for the screaming of the lambs.

Silence of the Lambs – 9 out of 10

15 Comments

  1. Alex Good says:

    A brilliant movie made out of a a novel that I thought was pure hack work. Everything about it just clicks. The set design, from the dungeon Lecter’s kept in to Gumb’s house, is what I admired the most the last time I watched it. It’s perfect. And of course the look on Foster’s face when she sees that moth. That’s one of the great movie moments.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Completely agree. There’s so many brilliant moments. My only critism was that Hopkins’s performance was too good, which definitely isn’t a bad one to have. The directing was outstanding and no more needs to be said about the acting. It’s interesting you say that about the book, which I haven’t read yet, because I was thinking of ordering it. Food for thought…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Alex Good says:

        It’s not a bad book if you’re into that kind of thing. But it certainly doesn’t transcend its genre, like the movie does. I found it trashy and overrated. Hannibal (Harris’s novel) was more fun, in an almost camp sort of way.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I quite liked the books, especially when he dug into Lecter’s thought processes.

          Liked by 1 person

        2. Ah, a different viewpoint. That’s interesting. To see all the success of the films, the book can’t be that bad, can it? I think I’m going to go for it. I do love Dr Lecter…

          Liked by 2 people

  2. If doing the books you’d be better starting with Red Dragon, the prequel to SoL’s, also a movie, actually 2 movies, original movie was renamed Manhunter (1986) with Brian Cox playing Lecter, then again as Red Dragon (2002) with Hopkins. Not the best of the Hopkins movie series but the best of the books I think.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for the advice. Funny you should mention Manhunter actually – a review could be coming soon…

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Good stuff, I liked that one.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. Discover and Explore says:

    Great review on a sensational story. Yes, Foster’s performance was not as showy as Hopkin’s was. But as you said, her vulnerability and inner strength really made her character a real human being, seemingly overwhelmed by a man full of demons. Their unusual connection was so believable within the world of the story. Thank you

    Liked by 3 people

    1. My pleasure – glad you enjoyed it! I’ve never seen better chemistry than between Foster and Hopkins. It’s something truly incredible. Of course, thanks for the comment, and I hope you can check in again soon!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Discover and Explore says:

        🙏🙏🙏

        Liked by 2 people

  4. scifimike70 says:

    Silence Of The Lambs, Nell, Contact, The Brave One and The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane are my five favourite Jodie Foster films.

    Liked by 2 people

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