December; Editing Process; Police Procedurals:
Silence of the Lambs Review
The next police procedural film I will be looking at is definitely the most well known and loved. It is Jonathan Demme’s Silence of the Lambs, made in 1991. This film kickstarted the Hannibal franchise, and won the Oscar for best picture that year. It follows Jodie Foster as Clarice Starling, a fresh-out-of-the-academy FBI agent on the hunt for a serial killer called Buffalo Bill. Clarice gets the aid of the cannibalistic psychiatrist, Hannibal Lecter, who develops an obsession with the young Clarice.
This film is the archetype for shows like Criminal Minds and CSI. It starts out following the investigators, and introduces the case. Evidence is gathered. Then once enough information is known about the killer to get a feel for his/her personality –– but not his/her identity –– the program cuts over to reveal the killer and follows their actions throughout the rest of the film. The plot intercuts between the investigation and killers actions to create dramatic irony. The parallel actions intersect once the primary investigator finds a new detail in the case that leads him/her to come into and interrupt a scene involving the serial killer, leading to the final showdown.
I see this formula so often now that when I first saw “Lambs” I was able to predict everything that was going to happen in it. I enjoy the film more for the characters and execution of the premise, rather than the actual story.
The on-screen portrayals of Hannibal Lecter have never been frightening, and the character has never seemed scary to me. He always acts like he’s got his head up his ass, and is an all around really pretentious dude. A sense of false superiority has never been something that I think makes a good serial killer, because it looks like the character is just some asshole that has been lying to his/herself. I like serial killers that are either completely unstable and unpredictable, or someone who is perfectly content with his/her actions and acts as if it’s perfectly normal for them to be killing people in horrible ways.
I always thought Buffalo Bill was far more frightening than Hannibal Lecter, because he was harder to predict and felt like a real person. The more realistic a serial killer seems, the closer they feel to the viewer –– and that makes them terrifying.
Jodie Foster does a fine job, but she doesn’t have to do much. She has to act scared yet fascinated for her time with Hannibal Lecter. Foster has to act driven, eager and confused during her investigation scenes. She really shines in her showdown with Buffalo Bill. You can feel that fear, that uncertainty that Jodie Foster has. The fact that in the blink of an eye she could be either the hero that solves this case or the next victim.
This film has iconic and disturbing scenes.They are made more disturbing by the great sets, like a madhouse that looks like a dungeon and a medieval pit hidden in a man’s basement. The darkly stylistic sets mixed with the detail oriented cinematography add a gritty realism, and odd surrealism to the world of these madmen. This film created the standard police procedural, but was smart enough in its execution to remain fresh and watchable even today.
Favorite Scene: “It puts the lotion on its skin or else it gets the hose again.” Classic line in a movie full of humorously quotable lines from serial killers.
Written by Tyler Ducheneaux
Images from Silence of the Lambs