The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

by George Watches Things


The Silence of the Lambs does so many things, and it does all of them well. It is an acute character study, and is full of fine performances (including one of the best all-time). It is effective as a murder mystery, with Jodie Foster pasting together each piece of the puzzle. And last, and in all honesty least, it is disgusting.

Foster plays Clarice Starling, a student who strives to be an FBI agent. She clearly has a bright future, and when Agent Crawford (Scott Glenn) asks her to go see a cannibal named Hannibal (Anthony Hopkins), she is ready. Or so she thinks. What happens next will change their lives, and perhaps give you nightmares.

At points, this film is brilliant. Hannibal is a one-of-a-kind character, and is almost perfect (is it wrong that I loved him?). He knows exactly what he wants, and he does things only in order to get what he wants. The sexism within law enforcement is handled subtly enough, something that reminded me of The Thin Blue Line, a work of fact as opposed to fiction. The Clarice character has a problem, though, and it’s due to under-writing and under-acting. She’s supposed to be in much more pain than she is. Her father died and she saw lambs being slaughtered. The movie makes sure, throughout, that you remember those facts, but only by having Hannibal tell you them.

The movie was exciting, though, and that makes up for most of its flaws. Except for part of one scene near the end (when Clarice keeps turning corners, afraid of what is around them), I never tired of it, despite a pace that isn’t all-action. But the one flaw that it can’t overcome is how nasty it is. I have never felt like throwing up during a movie… until now. I’m not exactly a germaphobe or a hemophobe, but the extended shots of a bath of a body in a pool of crusty… um… stuff… isn’t exactly my cup of tea. Also, the flesh suit grossed me out.

Note: Jim O’Heir from Parks and Rec may or may not be in the 11th minute. The voice of Betty White seems to be in the 111th minute.