The Silence of the Lambs

Is it possible that anyone has not seen this movie? I know it's not uncommon for people to not watch popular drama films, since those can be so dull. But everyone loves thrillers. The Silence of the Lambs is one of the greatest, directed in 1991 by Jonathan Demme. No matter how many times I see this movie, it still makes me tense and edgy. It also doesn't feel dated. I mean, the clothing does, but for a thriller, this film has had an incredibly long life.  Horror and thriller movies can be a hard genre, because it's so easy to make them vaguely effective and at the same time, disposable. The movie is unforgettable, and it feels like one of those films that you want to share with someone, because you know they will love it and it will be just as scary today as it was in 1991.  It's strength lies in it's strong and fascinating characters. Characters are supposed to be the most important elements of plot, but often, and more recently, they are overlooked. Instead of characters, there is only plot. When you think back to your favorite movie, you don't think about a plot point - you remember the characters. Horror movies and thrillers can be made with no good, well-thought out characters - they just need gore and sight gags and scary music. To see a thriller that has such strong characters is so exciting, and I'm sure that this has a lot to do with the legacy of this film.


The movie is about Clarice Starling, training for the FBI. She is tiny, but she is strong and confidant. She seeks out Hannibal Lecter for help in finding a serial killer plaguing the town. Hannibal is a cannibal, but also a genius and a psychologist. They have a lot in common, and they respect each other for their intelligence.  There is a sense that Hannibal actually respects Clarice,  - he looks out for her and helps her, and we sort of become found of him. I always got the sense that Hannibal killed that weird, pervvy inmate to show Clarice what he could do, and that he respected her. Her face when she finds out always seemed like evidence of this as well. The movie is not all character and drama, though. There is a lot of terror and tension and fear, and it always puts me on edge. There are so many chilling scenes, and we care about them so deeply because we like and can relate to the characters.

I love Clarice, as well. It's rare that there is a woman in a movie that could actually be a role model for girls. Clarice is tough and smart, and she doesn't back down. She suffers more for being a woman, but she deals with it and tries even harder to prove herself. She isn't going to let anyone drive her away from her goals or take away her ambition. I actually sort of was inspirited by her character. I'm an English major now, but ever since I saw this movie when I was younger, I had wanted to go into criminal justice or psychology. It sort of sparked an interest in true crime that I still have today. It's so nice to see a movie where a woman can kick ass and she doesn't have to wear booty shorts or a catsuit to do it.

On a different note, I did read in Ebert's essay that Anthony Hopkins had much less screen time than Clarice. She always stands out in my head as being a great heroine, but just like everyone else, I sort of love Hannibal, too. He's so fascinating, I can't help it! I was actually shocked when Ebert said he only had 16 minutes of screen time total, it seems like so much more because he has such an impression on me when I watch this.

I'm so sleepy, I wish I could keep writing but my eyes keep closing. I love this movie. The characters are so perfect and easy to care for. The scenes that deal with the horror and thriller elements are actually terrifying. The special effects held up really well - I still cringe at scenes, find myself watching it holding my breath because I've gotten so tense. I wish more horror and thriller movies put in characters that were more than just disposable, things to get killed off so they look icky and scare us for 10 seconds. We don't often come back to those movies to watch them again, except drunk with friends. We don't find ourselves thinking about the movie after it is over. Here, we have to think uncomfortable thoughts, like our love for Hannibal. Why? He's just charismatic enough that we can forget that he's a murderer? That's chilling. I love it.

This is just one of those movies that I never, ever get sick of watching. It has everything that I like, and all the elements blend so perfectly. I always am excited to watch this. If you haven't seen The Silence of the Lambs, I'm shocked. Go rent it immediately, especially if you like any sort of crime/horror/thriller sort of movie. If you've seen this movie before, read Ebert's essay, he says a lot of really interesting and observant things about the themes in both story and cinematography. Now, I must sleep, lest I pass out right here, where my alarm will not wake me and I will oversleep until noon.

Links:
Ebert's Great Movie Essay on The Silence of the Lambs
Trailer

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