The Silence of the Lambs (Jonathan Demme, 1991, USA)

     The legacy of The Silence of the Lambs has been overshadowed in time by the figure of Hannibal Lector. Despite being featured for only 16 minutes in the film, Hannibal Lector has become a cultural horror icon in the same vein as Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees, and Michael Myers. In some ways this is a shame, because Lambs stands on its own merit, independent of the Lector character. Jonathan Demme’s 1991 thriller is a tightly wound, terrifically executed piece of modern noir, that paved the way for future 1990s noirs like David Fincher’s Se7en and even Mindhunter. Demme’s solid but unflashy direction allowed the film to capture seven Academy Awards in 1992. Notably, Lambs to this day is the only horror film to ever have won Best Picture.

    While the arrest of Jeffrey Dahmer in 1991 no doubt propelled Lambs into the cultural zeitgeist, perhaps more so Jodie Foster’s portrayal of FBI agent Clarice Starling allowed the film to ride the feminist cultural wave of the early 1990s. Demme portrays Foster’s character as a diminutive woman in a career field occupied by mostly predatory men. There are many uncomfortable moments in the film where Foster’s character feels out of place, and Demme greatly captures the sense of awkwardness and danger.

While some critics have criticized Anthony Hopkins’ performance as Lector as hammy, Hopkins actually shows remarkable restraint in much of his performance. Take for example Clarice’s first encounter with him. He stands in his cell barely moving – it is a performance of complete and total control which makes him all the more intimidating. Other highlights of Hopkins’ performance include his escape, which has to be one of the most memorable prison escape scenes in the entire history of cinema. Overall, Lambs is a movie that well deserves its reputation as a classic.




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