Looking Back: Silence of the Lambs (1991)

It’s safe to say that are many movies that I love. There are so many that I adore. In fact, my whole life is dedicated into searching for movies that are a bit off kilter – humorously bleak yet understated.

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There is a massive film, however, that pretty much shaped my entire life and film journalism career. I was fourteen years old when my mother popped on a television channel that was screening it and till then, my mum had spent a long time avoiding the film, especially me watching. And I had to watch it with her permission because of the psychological thrills it entailed.

That film was Silence of the Lambs and little did my mum know that she was right, that film changed me. In fact, it gave me a taste of things to come.

Silence of the Lambs for anyone who completely missed this movie was released in 1991 to much acclaim. Staring Academy Award Winning Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster, the movie is about a series of murders that span over America. Desperate for answer, the FBI send in trainee Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) to a psychiatric hospital to gain information from cannibal Dr Hannibal Lecter. As the murderer, Buffalo Bill takes another victim, it is up to Clarice to play a cat and mouse mental game with Lecter

Jonatham Demme has quite magnificently adapted from a popular book to create a terrifying movie. What Demme does here is give terrifying atmosphere to play eerie games on the audience. The film gives different levels of fright. Not only that but he weaved social issues into his horror tale. He subverted the eye to make you aware of the sexism faced by Clarice, Demme mastered the creeping mystery, the infamous killer, and the struggles of women in a delicate and uneasy balance.

The soundtrack turns haunting at the right moments and the tension builds until chills are creeping down your neck. The cinematography is swept in bleak and chilling colours and shots are panned and lethal, transitioning from an intense killers stare to a somewhat innocence unravelling as Clarice and Lecter spar off.

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Talking about that, Silence of the Lambs only really works because of the intensely great acting of Hopkins and Foster. Foster, having transitioned well from being a child actress, playing naively determined Starling with a thirst for the job that has lead her into the cell of Dr Hannibal Lecter, but she will never give up on getting back that girl. And Hopkins is superb as Lecter, giving him a complex flair and manages to manipulate the room and all of those around him. Hopkins, who has a small screen time of sixteen minutes, terrifies. He is a mysterious murder who enjoys the mind games that he plays. He commands your attention and is gleeful as he sips on everyone else’s mind. His piercing metallic eyes really worm into your head.

All these elements together create a stunning movie. There are now so many versions of Lecter; so many fans of the sadistic killer and so many preferences, it’s hard to pin point which is the best. Now, I’m not going to lie, I have said before that truthfully, Manhunter is the better and stylish adaptation of Lecter. But that’s my head talking.

But if I was given a choice, it would be The Silence of the Lambs that could take my heart and feast upon it.

The Silence of the Lambs returns to cinemas 3rd November 

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