The Silence of the Lambs

The Silence of the Lambs ★★★★★

The Silence of the Lambs is one of those films that I feel an ephemeral amount of shame for taking so long to view. However, I then take solace in the fact that every critic and adult cinephile had to wait till they were in their twenties or older to see it for the first time, so my seeing it in the latter end of my teenage years isn’t so bad after all.

Of course, the film undoubtedly deserves its reputation. Like many other classics much of its iconic lines and revelations have become the stuff of quips in mainstream movies and television, but its buildup and all around extraordinary execution barely make that noticeable. The film feels simultaneously in sync with its time, where one could feel justified in paranoia at rising crime rates, and with the present, as Clarice faces not only the psychologically taxing demands of such a grisly case but also the underlying insecurities one of her age and experience may have regarding the sexual dynamics of her workplace. 

Likewise, the central characters themselves are effortlessly compelling and impeccably acted. Clarice is an immensely rootable protagonist in part due to Foster’s charisma in the role, and also in her resilience despite overwhelming situations. Hopkins’ Hannibal earns his legendary status handily, with deft improvisations weaved naturally through the intelligent script’s characterization. The infamous Buffalo Bill proves immensely unnerving as well, due to his chameleonic behavior exacerbated by a deep well of hatred and singular psychoses. I simultaneously want to see more of these characters (despite the iffy reception of the sequels that followed).

On a technical level the film also goes far above and beyond what a standard thriller would need to - The cinematogaphy in particular deserves credit for its meticulous juxtaposition of character faces in pivotal dialogue scenes. The blocking during the quid pro quo scene, in which the camera moves through the bars, sets up the power dynamics between Lecter and Clarice perfectly while also providing an immersive factor. The same applies to the darting back and forth between the two houses in the finale - even when one thinks they may be on to some plot twist, the ambiguity of the editing helps throw one off the film’s trail (such as the escape sequence, in which I remained wary of whether Lecter actually disguised himself). Of course, I can’t leave out the incredible night vision sequence or Howard Shore’s rich score.

It is often stated (perhaps to the point of cliche) that the best films are an amalgamation of ideas. The Silence of the Lambs is but one case that validates such a platitude.

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