The fame of Jonathan Demme’s “Silence of the Lambs” will remain everlasting in the horror genre. “Silence of the Lambs” reaffirms that the best thrillers never age. The implications of fear are certainly timeless, but it’s also a universal emotion that most can easily tap into and relentlessly feel. From a cinematography standpoint, Jonathan eloquently captured both character’s raw vulnerable feelings in the best way possible.
Top FBI student in training, Clarice Starling is assigned to questioning Dr. Hannibal Lecter. Lecter, a psychiatrist whom is in a maximum-security prison for being a serial killer and a cannibal. Starling must pick the brains of Lecter to help the FBI solve the mysterious case of serial killer Buffalo Bill. After Clarice travels through a series of security protected stairs and gets, she finally comes upon the hallway of prison cells. It is gruesome. It is dark. It is frightening. All the feelings that go through Clarice suddenly appear on the screen. Without any words spoken, the stillest shot is formed. Every single emotion is wrapped up in this one shot. This pivotal moment in film history remains so ageless because of the intense and sudden connection immediately drawn upon.
A deep aspect of this film is the diverse cinematography between each character. Different POV shots of Starling and Lecter produce different feelings for each character. We see both of these complicated characters for who they really are. In some ways, I feel my own similarities between Clarice and even Hannibal. The carefully conducted cinematography allows viewers to get a one-on-one view, and perhaps feel for these characters. The biggest obstacle tackled was letting the audience somehow in some way like Hannibal Lecter. The relationship that is so easily seen on film between Hannibal and Clarice is in part due to the actor’s themselves. Anthony Hopkins (Hannibal Lecter) manipulates audiences into transcending into the vastness of his life, decisions, feelings, and aspects that make him a human.
While the manhunt continues on, Starling continues to visit Lecter. While their relationship continues to get closer, he psychologically examines her and her disturbing childhood memories. Lecter, as clever as ever, manages an escape from his special cell. When the psychotic killer Buffalo Bill is caught, Starling is unaware of Lecter’s whereabouts. Upon the FBI Academy graduation party, Clarice Starling receives an unexpected phone call from Hannibal Lecter. Much to her dismay, he assures her that he has no intentions of pursuing her. We see Hannibal dressed in a complete disguise and watch him casually walk through the streets of the Bahamas as the camera pans further and further back. The audience is left with cavernous unknowingness of the future for both Clarice and Hannibal, but between both of their wits perhaps they will meet again someday. Beginning in silence and ending in silence, the film ends in the finest way possible.
Another contributing factor to the heart of the film is the soundtrack. The soundtrack carries themes and messages throughout the film, in which words cannot express. As the soundtrack floats through the film, it sets a mournful tone and also instills terror. While many horror movies produce terrorizing soundtracks, this soundtrack was composed with the uttermost thought. With exhales, sighs, long pauses, and even minuscule details, the soundtrack is unique in itself.
While there are many contributing factors to this masterpiece of filmmaking, the pure heart of the film centers around Clarice Starling and Hannibal Lecter’s unusual relationship. In many ways, I find the film’s most “thriller/unusual” aspect to be this raw relationship. Hannibal is the villain. But, in many ways he is her mentor. He showcases feelings of care, trust and protection to her. An unspoken trust is established based on Lecter showing care for Starling as well as her showing the same. While they appear seemingly opposite people to the outside world, deep within they share so much with each other. Both are outcasts of the lives they must live in. Lecter being a serial killer and a cannibal, and Clarice being a woman in a law enforcement profession. Both are strong people inside with strong tactics handling the power of persuasion, but they withdraw the outside world from seeing their strength. While both hold the uttermost strength, they each feel powerless in their surroundings. Contrary to their appearance and much different circumstances, they both encompass a sense of connection deep within. The relationship is so bewildering yet so intriguing. While watching their conversations and interactions, I just can’t force myself to look away. Demme eloquently reeled viewers into a twisted world in such a way that it seemed normal. Sometimes maybe it’s all up to interpretation. I find myself asking deep questions after watching this film. Perhaps, there is no complete “good and “evil”. There’s a little bit of both in all of us, no matter how hard we try to deny it.
- Megan Bloom (@meganvbloom)