THROWBACK THURSDAY NICK CLEMENT INVESTIGATES SILENCE OF THE LAMBS
With HANNIBAL having come to its final end on television, now is an opportune moment to look back at its cinematic precedents. MANHUNTER from MICHAEL MANN was of course excellent (featuring BRIAN COX as Hannibal). HANNIBAL from RIDLEY SCOTT was a solid action thriller, despite many feeling it to be a somewhat forced sequel. RED DRAGON has an incredible cast and is worth watching despite its identical plot to MANHUNTER (let nobody belittle BRETT RATNER again!).
But the one that REALLY got the Hannibal mythology ‘out there’? The film that made people excited for the character and its potential? The script with endlessly quoted lines, even today, and countless send ups and copy cat references in all media? Look no further than SILENCE OF THE LAMBS.
It is truly one of a kind (especially since the tv show cannot now remake its storyline; though there were rights issues no doubt in any event). It’s ANTHONY HOPKINS’ definitive performance (just imagine: it was almost GENE HACKMAN, SEAN CONNERY, JACK NICHOLSON, DUSTIN HOFFMAN, JEREMY IRONS..). Hopkins’ Hannibal = an unbeatable mix of evil menace and almost comedic class and calm. Oh and THAT poster: well one COULD argue it was a nice pre-internet bit of visual and VIRAL marketing!
So, sit back, relax and open a NICE CHIANTI as NICK CLEMENT takes us back in time and opens the case file marked SILENCE OF THE LAMBS..
The Silence of the Lambs is one of those virtually flawless films that feel as if nothing could be improved upon. It continually stands the test of time. There’s zero fat on the bones of the narrative, Jonathan Demme’s observant style was perfectly attuned to the psychologically disturbing material, the performances were beyond reproach and Tak Fujimoto’s stark cinematography paired perfectly with Craig McKay’s astute sense of judiciously timed editing.
Every scene in this film has been designed for maximum impact but without ever showing its aesthetic hand in an obvious way. I’ve long been obsessed with the way Demme positions his actors in the middle of the frame, resulting in compositions that feel unnerving and unique in a manner that truly burrows under the skin. Jodie Foster’s performance is easily the best of her career, and Ted Tally’s screenplay has a sense of economy that never betrays character development or small important details.
The dialogue is also sinister and witty and brilliant. What else can really be said about the iconic nature of Anthony Hopkins’ work in this film? He’s chillingly engaging, and despite the fact that he’s a lethal killer, because of how Hopkins played the part, you understand how and why Foster’s Clarice Starling would grow emotionally attached to him.
The supporting performances are all excellent, with Scott Glenn, Ted Levine, Anthony Heald, and Frankie Faison all turning in unforgettable screen moments. I had the pleasure of watching much of this movie frame by frame during a college course, and it’s extraordinary when dissected at close proximity, and you realize more and more just how incredibly in synch Demme was with Fujimoto and McKay.
The film boasts an absolutely haunting score by Howard Shore that dials up the tension at almost every moment, never going for gotcha! sound cues, instead stressing a nightmarish soundscape that envelopes the picture at key moments. Years from now, as many films have come and gone, this will be one that people will look back on as a shining example within a well-traveled genre.
After spending close to a decade working in Hollywood, Nick Clement has taken his passion for film and transitioned into a blogger and amateur reviewer, tackling old, new, and far flung titles without a care for his cerebral cortex. His latest venture: Podcasting Them Softly, finds him tackling new ground as an entertainment guru, and along with his spirited partner Frank Mengarelli, are attracting some diverse and exciting talent to their site. Some of Nick‘s favorite filmmakers include Michael Mann, Martin Scorsese, Tony Scott, Oliver Stone, David Fincher, Werner Herzog, Terrence Malick, and Billy Wilder, and he’s a huge proponent of the “31 Flavors of Cinema” school of thought. Favorite films include The Tree of Life, Goodfellas, Heat, Back to the Future, Fitzcarraldo, Zoolander, Babe, and Enter the Void.