Monday, January 28, 2013

The Silence of the Lambs

The Silence of the Lambs; thriller, USA, 1991; D: Jonathan Demme, S: Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, Scott Glenn, Ted Levine, Anthony Heald

The young Clarice Starling, about to finish her FBI Academy training, is summoned by Crawford, of the Bureau's Behavioral Science Unit, to help him find the elusive serial killer nicknamed Buffalo Bill, who kills and skins his victims. Clarice hopes to catch the psychopath with the help of another psychopath, albeit much more "normal" one, Dr. Hannibal Lecter, who degenerated into cannibalism and is thus held in a maximum security prison. After a Senator's daughter, Catherine, is kidnapped, the FBI accelerates this cooperation with Lecter, who uses his transport out of prison to escape. Still, thanks to his clues, Clarice is able to locate the killer, Gumb, a transsexual who wants to saw the skin of women as a dress. Clarice kills him and Catherine is saved.

Anthony Hopkins' portrayal of Hannibal Lecter became one of the icons of cinema, since the British actor made a masterful performance by convincing the audience that he, who once played a gentle butler in Ivory's "Remains of the Day", could here be a terrifying, menacing cannibalistic psychopath, though with surprising outbursts of British charm, intelligence and culture - yet that still does not detract from the fact that the first screen performance of his character was in a superior film, in Mann's aesthetic "Manhunter". Even though "The Silence of the Lambs" is slightly overrated, it is still a very good thriller, with the finale reaching almost Hichcockian intensity of suspense, whereas the storyline manages to engage the viewers with ease already in the opening shots. The subplot of Gumb, a serial killer, is almost pointless and does not connect in any cohesive way (what exactly would he gain by sawing a dress out of women's skin? Even if he had it, it is meaningless because he would still be a man, and thus it seems the authors just relayed on lazily explaining it by simply making him "crazy") and does tend to slightly show transsexuals in a negative way, yet it is just a necessary gimmick for the main highlight, the fascinating dialogues between Clarice (excellent Jodie Foster, wonderfully cast with that innocent, fragile look) and Lecter, who gives clues on how to catch him. As many have already pointed out, Clarice reveals in one dialogue that she tried to save a lamb from a slaughter house in a farm while she was a child, and that is mirrored in the story now that she is an FBI agent and tries to save a "human lamb", the Senator's daughter, from Gumb who sheds his victim's skin just as farmers shed the lamb's wool, yet there is also a sly vegetarian subtext, revealing itself in Clarice being possibly a vegetarian humanitarian trying to establish a connection with meat-eater Lecter in order to save another being. The "fake" parallel montage of a the SWAT team surrounding the house is great, and director Demme crafts the film in a cold, clinical, but effective way.


No comments: