The Silence of the Lambs Review
The Silence of the Lambs is one of those movies that has a strange hype around it that corrupts impressions (the same is true for The Blair Witch Project). There’s been so many parodies and bad sequels that the original film has been somewhat tarnished over time. With that being said, if you haven’t seen this movie, you owe it to yourself to watch it. The Silence of the Lambs is a wonderfully complex psychological thriller that won all the major Academy Awards in ’91 for good reason.
Without going into too much plot and keeping this spoiler-free, The Silence of the Lambs is about an FBI trainee (Agent Clarice Starling) on the trail of a serial killer coined Buffalo Bill by the press. The strength of the film lies in Agent Starling’s interviews with Dr. Hannibal Lecter - a cannibalistic serial killer with insight into Buffalo Bill’s psyche.
The Silence of the Lambs has become a classic film because of such strong characterization. We sympathize with the central characters - even the morbid Dr. Lecter and his fascination with Clarice and her past. His obsession with Starling only makes the viewer more interested in her and her troubled past.
The film’s strongest scene (embedded below) involves a story about Clarice’s struggle to save a lamb from the slaughter house when she was a child. Jodie Foster delivers the monologue with such humanity. Her story connects with why she became an FBI agent and the image of Dr. Lecter staring in awe is wonderfully filmed.
What separates The Silence of the Lambs from any other thriller involves the attention to character development. A lesser writer or director would have focused his/her attention on plot, yet The Silence of the Lambs artfully builds upon Clarice’s past, fully developing her life over the course of the movie.
The Silence of the Lambs is strongly directed by Jonathan Demme. He uses the first-person perspective throughout the film, so the audience gets to see the world through Clarice’s eyes. It sounds jarring, but it’s really well done here and used to great effect. Demme knew how to navigate the film, subtly using the first-person perspective at key points.
This is a movie you have to watch from start to finish. It’s a gripping thriller that knows when to slow down and when to ratchet up the pressure. It also has the perfect title - by the time the credits roll, the name takes on a new, deeper meaning. Both the audience and Dr. Lecter hope that Clarice - having saved the life of a young woman - can live peacefully, never to wake again to the screaming of the lambs.
This one comes highly recommended.