Jonathan Demme unleashed a masterpiece on the world, and we haven't even begun to recognize all of its genius.
There are so many great and important reasons to love the movie The Silence of the Lambs that I was overwhelmed when sitting to write this post today. It's a movie with actual power, one that shows what it's like being a woman in the workplace, one that digs deep into the psychosis of characters, that delivers thrills, chills, interesting camera work, reinvented the close-up, and cemented Jonathan Demme as one of the most important American directors in the world.
And that's all just the tip of the iceberg.
Check out this video from Filmcraft, and let's talk after.
Video is no longer available: www.youtube.com/watch?v=RqIbLWo69u8
What Makes The Silence of the Lambs so Great?
Where were you the first time you saw The Silence of the Lambs? The movie premiered in 1991 and was directed by the late, great Demme and written by Ted Tally from the novel by Thomas Harris.
This wasn't the first time Dr. Lecter hit the big screen, but it was the most memorable. The Silence of the Lambs was released on Valentine's Day and grossed $272.7 million worldwide on a $19 million budget. That's some serious bang for your buck.
According to Wikipedia, "The Silence of the Lambs is regularly cited by critics, film directors, and audiences as one of the greatest and most influential films. In 2018, Empire ranked it 48th on their list of the 500 greatest movies of all time. The American Film Institute ranked it the fifth-greatest and most influential thriller film while Starling and Lecter were ranked among the greatest film heroines and villains. The film is considered 'culturally, historically, or aesthetically' significant by the U.S. Library of Congress and was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry in 2011."
But is that what makes this movie a masterpiece?
I think more than anything, it's the complex emotions and questions that made this movie stick out. Each character is going through something. Lecter wants vengeance, Starling wants catharsis, the senator wants his daughter back, and Buffalo Bill is shedding his skin to become someone else. This confluence of people created an epic story. Everyone needs one another to move forward. They can't achieve their arcs without one another.
Look at how well these characters are drawn. We see competing motivations in every scene. Lecter wants to get out of maximum security, Starling wants to catch a killer. They are in verbal boxing matches, sparring, associating, caring for one another.
We had never seen people like this before. Killers on TV and in movies were always grimy and gross, like Buffalo Bill, but Lecter was the opposite. He was polished and intelligent. It subverted tired tropes to give us something we had never seen before.
Of course, this all had to come together on the page in the script first, and then be crafted by a director who knew how to sculpt the visuals with expert cinematography. The way Demme handles this film is extraordinary, slipping into his signature close-ups and keeping the camera moving, allowing us to sit on the edge of our seats.
And what about that climax? It's in the dark, we have a lead who can't see anything, and she's being hunted. This kind of extraordinary payoff is frighteningly surreal. We slip in and out of the closeups, going handheld. We can feel Buffalo Bill's breath as he creeps up on Starling.
It's enthralling and a moment that went down in history, and rightfully so.
What are your favorite moments inside this movie?
Let us know in the comments.
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It's one of the few films in which every part is excellent: the script, the acting, the story, the direction, the editing. That's why it one Oscars for both its acting leads, the director, the script and the movie itself. Few films, especially today, excel in even one of those areas. Silence of the Lambs excelled in all of them.
June 23, 2021 at 1:57PM