The Silence of the Lambs

The Silence of the Lambs

Scenes of Clarice Starling being eyed by packs of male law enforcement colleagues are just as unnerving as some of the more iconic creep-outs of this film, like Buffalo Bill's lotion chant. The film never quite aligns Starling with the institutional powers she represents; she is an outsider, forging bonds with individual father figures (Crawford and Lecter) but unable to trust either's world.

Demme's classic thriller is an uneven one. The filmmaking instincts that cause something like Rachel Getting Married to be sublime are the same that make for a psychological thriller that never seems to achieve an overall rhythm. What we have here instead is a collection of scenes, some of them quite incredible, which makes me wish the film had better embraced its linear and procedural plot structure.

Jodie Foster is absolutely the heart of the film, playing inexperienced, intelligent, coolly analytical Clarice Starling, highly talented but suddenly finding herself used as bait for bigger, stranger fish than any she's encountered before. One of my favorite moments is when she takes a long while to steady herself before turning around to look at the flayed corpse of one of Buffalo Bill's victims. She knows she is going to have to wrangle with the horror in front of her, so she takes a moment. What's going on in her mind right then? Whatever it is, when she turns around, she doesn't look away again. Starling is curious about the horror beneath the surface of society, she has a desire to understand it, and this is what creates a wonderful center of gravity for The Silence of the Lambs and supercharges the relationship between herself and Hannibal Lecter. Jodie Foster certainly earned that Oscar and then some.

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