Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

I can't say that The Silence of the Lambs was better than Manhunter, but it was a good movie. I think it was more effective at creating a "horror" atmosphere, but as a result, it was less realistic and believable than Manhunter, in my opinion. Stereotypical mentally deranged serial killers (aside from the cultured and charismatic Hannibal himself), a prison that looks very much like an actual dungeon, a newbie FBI agent-in-training getting in over her head. All of this contributes to the fear, but it ends up feeling more like a Hollywood fantasy than the gritty story that Manhunter was.

But enough comparisons. One of the most fascinating aspects, to me, of Hannibal Lecter's character, is the fact that, in addition to being a serial killer, he is a psychiatrist. Not only is he well-mannered (when he wants to be) and highly intelligent, but he makes it his business to get into people's minds - and he does it well. He acts as though he has control of every situation - even when he's chained and caged like an animal - and it seems almost as if he can read your mind and guess at your deepest fears and secrets. Yet, he's almost likable. I think the concept of this psychopath dealing with other people's problems (some of whom may go on to to become killers themselves), in the capacity of being a psychiatrist, is intriguing and itself could make a good story. Perhaps another title in the series takes that approach.

The best scene in the film (aside from Hannibal's celebrated breakout), is the revelation that explains the meaning of the title. It's very creepy, yet I wish it was more of a literal motif than a symbolic one. It's rather naively optimistic, as the screaming of the lambs will never be silenced. But I guess that contributes to the despair of the film. I liked the interactions and the uncomfortable relationship between Hannibal (the Cannibal) and Clarice (FBI agent-in-training). He's a killer and she's a copper, and yet there's some level of mutual understanding between them, and a certain amount of respect. It's touching, really - in a creepy kind of way.

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