Adaptation · Crime · Criterion Collection · Drama · Thriller · United States

#13 The Silence of the Lamb (1991)


#13 The Silence of the Lamb

1991 // USA // Jonathan Demme

Criterion Collection (LINK)

The Silence of the Lamb is a psychological thriller, a police procedural, a serial killer horror, and above all, a feminist film. Yes Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) stole the show, but the heart and soul lies within Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster), a FBI rookie who is still training in academy! Clarice embodies the female strength and vulnerability simultaneously, she stands for female power that resists the obsessive and oppressive male graze surrounding her which repeatedly see her either as a object of desire or a misfit; she stands for and protects her kind who have been victimized in a patriarchal society, for she is the one who saved the latest kidnapped girl (Brooke Smith) from the psychopath serial killer Buffalo Bill (Ted Levine).

Clarice was the complex female hero that we have been longing for, and still is after 27 years have passed. Hannibal Lecter, albeit a villain or an antihero in its own right, is acting as much as Clarice’s “mentor” as Clarice’s boss Jack Crawford (Scott Glenn) to her.  There’s intellectual interplay within the interaction between Clarice and Lecter, a fight for an upper hand (the bargaining power), a fight for higher ground (the role of a psychoanalyst), and a fight for autonomy separately as Lecter is imprisoned inside a cell (and later a cage) while Clarice is confined within the male-dominated body of organization.

I don’t find the portrait of “transvestite” Buffalo Bill offensive as some people do, the film indeed explains that he’s not a “true” homosexual and far from representational. I admire the boldness but agree that the subject could be handled with more sensitivity. The Silence of the Lamb is a perfect generic film in atmospheric build-up and characterisation on both the heroine and the villains. There’re numerous memorable scenes (the head-in-a-jag, Lecter’s cage escape, the night-vision preying) that are still bone-chilling upon repeated viewing. The character of Hannibal Lecter have had numerous spin-off since then (and a preceded one too), but not having a strong enough female character as Clarice to be the opposing force, The Silence of the Lamb would perpetually remain the best.


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