My mom is a huge fan of horror films, so there’s no way I was going to make it this long without hearing about Silence of the Lambs. However, I on the other hand, am a wimp. I hate horror movies and will keep myself up at night after I watch one. So, before now I had certainly heard of Silence of the Lambs and had seen bits and pieces of the film. Somehow, I’d retained the opening scene of Jodie Foster running through the woods in my memory for years before revisiting the film last weekend. This time I would have to woman-up, turn out the lights, and pay attention to this movie.
And I loved it.
This is the first time I’d seen the film all the way through, and luckily it was after I had the chance to take a film class in undergrad. That class made a great film pretty excellent. My favorite scene was, from an analytical standpoint, when Clarice (Foster) was visiting Lector (Hopkins) in the first mental hospital. There’s a kind of over-the-shoulder shot where the camera is inside the cell aimed at Clarice through the glass. But at the same time you can see Lector’s reflection in the glass and he’s almost towering over Clarice. In that moment it’s as if she’s the one who is stuck in the glass and Lector is given an almost ethereal embodiment.
Watching this film right after reading Red Dragon, the prequel, was actually a little bittersweet, though. I was still kind of tied to Graham’s character and story and wanted at least one reference to him. I was excited when Jack Crawford came into the picture, and the scene where Chilton is getting ready to introduce Clarice to Lector for the first time, he practically repeats in verbatim what he’d told Graham upon his meeting with Lector. I love it when book-to-movie adaptations include nearly line-for-line quotes from the book. Now, I definitely want to read Silence of the Lambs. Though, I’ll never be able to picture anyone but Hopkins in the role of Lector. He was absolutely perfect. From the moment he uttered the iconic, “Good morning, Clarice”, he displayed the intelligent, uneasy patience of Lector just a well as Thomas did in Red Dragon. The most frightening scene for me was when they were loading Lector out on the dolly secured in a straight jacket with the big, metal mask clamped over his face. It was at that moment I truly grasped how dangerous a man Lector truly was supposed to be. Yet, it was a delicate balance. When I think of insane, I think of a loss of inhibitions and crude behavior, much like that of Miggs, one of Lector’s cell mates, definitely not a man capable of the intelligence Lector holds. Yet, maybe that’s the key–Lector was consumed by his intelligence so much so that he was more machine than man.
Then there was Buffalo Bill (AKA Jame Gumb) played by a very young Ted Levine. Now, his character was fascinating and one I definitely want to read further about in the novel. It seemed with his character, Silence of the Lambs attempted to answer the question: are murderers born or made? It seemed the answer might have been both. Lector was evil incarnate, while Gumb was pushed into it by some sort of traumatized childhood. After all, the jump from animal meat to human meat isn’t that far, but the jump from making a woman suit to making a woman suit out of actual women is rather precarious.
So far Gumb, by a long shot, was the most frightening psycho I’ve read in this course, while Lector was the most intriguing–so much so that I can barely scratch the surface with someone who has not seen the film or read the book. So if you haven’t done either, get on the bandwagon and quick.
Lector’s dying to have you for dinner.