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Films to See Before You Die: #9 The Silence of the Lambs


The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

Director Jonathon Demme

Cast: Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, Scott Glenn, Ted Levine

Synopsis:Promising FBI Academy student Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) is pulled from her training at the FBI Training Facility at Quantico, Virginia by Jack Crawford (Scott Glenn) of the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit, who tasks her with presenting a VICAP questionnaire to the notorious Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins), a brilliant forensic psychiatrist and incarcerated cannibalistic serial murderer. After learning the assignment relates to the pursuit of vicious serial killer Buffalo Bill (Ted Levine), Starling travels to the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane and is led by Dr. Frederick Chilton to Hannibal Lecter. Although initially pleasant and courteous, Lecter grows impatient with Starling’s attempts at “dissecting” him and viciously rebuffs her. As Starling departs, Lecter offers a riddle containing information about a former patient. The solved riddle leads to a rent-a-storage lot where the severed head of Benjamin Raspail is found. Starling returns to Lecter, who links Raspail to Buffalo Bill and who offers to help profile Buffalo Bill if he is transferred to a facility far from the venomous Dr. Chilton. Buffalo Bill abducts Catherine Martin, the daughter of United States Senator Ruth Martin. At Quantico, as news of Catherine Martin’s abduction sweeps the country, Crawford authorizes Starling to offer Hannibal Lecter a fake deal promising a prison transfer if he provides information that helps profile Buffalo Bill and rescue Catherine Martin. Instead, Lecter begins a game of quid pro quo with Starling, offering comprehensive clues and insights about Buffalo Bill in exchange for events from Starling’s traumatic childhood. Unaware to both Starling and Lecter, Dr. Frederick Chilton tapes the conversation and after revealing Starling’s deal as a sham, offers to transfer Lecter in exchange for a deal of his own making. Lecter agrees and following a flight to Tennessee reveals Buffalo Bill’s real name, physical description and past address to Senator Martin and her entourage of FBI agents and Justice Department officials. As the manhunt begins, Starling travels to Lecter’s special cell in a local Tennessee courthouse, where she confronts him about the false information he gave the Senator. Lecter refuses Starling’s pleas and demands she finish her story surrounding her worst childhood memory. After recounting her arrival at a relative’s farm, the horror of discovering their lamb slaughterhouse and her fruitless attempts at rescuing the lambs, Lecter rebuffs her, leaving her with her case file before she is escorted out of the building by security guards. Later that evening, Lecter escapes from his cell. After notified of Lecter’s escape, Starling pores over her case file, analyzing Lecter’s annotations before realizing that the first victim, Frederica Bimmel, knew Bill in real life before he killed her. Starling travels to Bimmel’s hometown and discovers that Bimmel was a tailor and has dresses with templates identical to the patches of skin removed from Buffalo Bill’s victims. Realizing that Buffalo Bill is a tailor fashioning a “woman suit” of real skin, she telephones Crawford, who is already on the way to make an arrest, having cross-referenced Lecter’s notes with Johns Hopkins Hospital and finding a man named James Gumb. Crawford instructs Starling to continue interviewing Bimmel’s friends while he leads a SWAT team to Gumb’s business address in Calumet City, Illinois. Starling’s interviews lead to the house of “Jack Gordon,” who Starling soon realizes is not who he claims to be.

Trivia: Before this movie, only two other horror films were ever so much as nominated for a Best Picture (The Exorcist and Jaws). As of 2010, The Silence of the Lambs remains the only horror film to win an Oscar for Best Picture. When Jonathan Demme filmed the scene where Lecter and Starling first meet, Anthony Hopkins said he should look directly at the camera as it panned into his line of sight. He felt Lecter should be portrayed as “knowing everything.” The first film to win the Best Picture Oscar that was widely available on home video at the time of the ceremony.

Why I think you should see this: I just love The Silence of the Lambs for so many reasons but none more than Anthony Hopkins creepy but excellent turn as Hannibal Lecter. He is only in the film for about 18 minutes but his presence is felt throughout the entire picture. Jodie Foster is pretty awesome as Clarice as well with Ted Levine turning in the performance of a lifetime as Buffalo Bill. This movie has the rare distinction of being released early in the year (February) but still pulled through with all of the major Oscar wins. The sequel Hannibal is serviceable but my favourite is the prequel Red Dragon which not only has a great performance by Anthony Hopkins but also terrific performances from Edward Norton and Ralph Fiennes. A must see so check this one out sometime.


About Trevor

Hi my name is Trevor and this is my blog! Films are a passion of mine. I am a total film geek. I own over 700 films and the collection is ever growing. I studied Film Studies and Scriptwriting in College. What I have learned about films is mostly self taught.

6 responses to “Films to See Before You Die: #9 The Silence of the Lambs

  1. I had no idea Hopkins’ screen time was only 18 minutes. That’s insane. He dominates the film–one of the best, most compelling actors working today.

  2. I LOVE “The Silence Of The Lambs”…
    …And Agree It’s A Truly Amazing Film In Many Ways…
    …Especially Sir Anthony, Ms. Jodie, & Uncle Teddy…
    …While I May Be Showing My Age A Little Here…
    …”MANHUNTER” Remains My Favorite Of All Of Them.
    Just Personal Opinion.
    I LOVE Your Review, Though.
    Nice To See A Film I Enjoy So So Much Breaking Into Your Top 10! Most People Would Almost Assuredly Agree With You Here. A Great Film, Indeed.

    …But I Still Like “MANHUNTER” More-So 😉

  3. 20poorandfabulous ⋅

    I tried watching this as a kid and didn’t get it. Definitely a movie that I need to see now!

  4. Chrissy

    Every scene is amazing. Loved it…kept me on my toes!

  5. Jaime Caparros ⋅

    Anthony Hopkins is of course a very talented actor. I love his movies and of course the way he acts on the silence of the lambs trilogy. “;.’ Yours truly health supplements post

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