The Silence of the Lambs
Do I need to give a spoiler alert for a film that came out over two decades ago?
I was fourteen years old when I first got a taste of Dr. Lecter.
I sat on the living room floor with an open box of pizza on the coffee table in front of me and my dad snoring on the couch behind me. He had come home that afternoon with a small stack of DVDs that he borrowed from a friend for us to watch throughout that weekend.
After we had finished the first film (I believe it may have been one of the earlier Saw films, but I’m not entirely positive) he put Hannibal into the DVD player, returned to the couch, and fell asleep almost immediately.
I was too hyped up on junk food to call it a night for myself, so I decided to stay up and watch it. I had no idea what the movie was going to be about, I just knew it was safe to assume that it was in the same gory-thriller vein as the previous movie.
When the film started, I honestly wasn’t all that interested or captivated by what was happening – in hindsight, this was most likely just due to the complete lack of understanding of the context of the film – but Mason Verger (the surviving victim of Dr. Lecter) was visually interesting just enough for me to keep watching.
But when the focus of the film began to make itself a little bit clearer as Verger expands on his desire to seek revenge on the infamous Dr. Lecter, and on his interest in using Clarice to craft his doom, I found myself entirely captivated by Hannibal and interested more in who he is than what he had done.
The tone and articulation of his voice when he speaks is mesmerizing. He radiates with elegance and charm, having delicately refined tastes in art, culture, and cuisine. His posture and movements are equally graceful and strong, alluring and intimating. In all his infamy, this is a man with incredible intelligence and a fierce intolerance for rudeness, who is a murderer and a cannibal who often employs his unique moral compass to choose his victims, and yet uses phrases such as “goody goody” or “okey dokey”.
And despite devouring everything this film offered, it didn’t take long for me to realize that there was a huge possibility that I was missing something imperative. The film constantly references some deeply intimate past between Dr. Lecter and Clarice- her exchange with Barney (the Head Orderly at the Baltimore forensic hospital) on how she thinks about Hannibal every single day and carries him like a bad habit, or how she obsesses over the tapes, listening to them at every private moment possible, or the letter that he sent her to taunt her, knowing just what to say to get under her skin and get her attention, and every other encounter or exchange between them throughout the rest of the film…
It all left me wanting to know more, to witness firsthand their discussions down in the dungeon, to watch this history unfold in all its apparent greatness.
Hannibal is a good film. It’s well framed and beautifully acted. Julianne Moore is absolutely stunning. But Hannibal is not the Silence of the Lambs, and this Clarice is not the Clarice we get from Jodie Foster, and the true depth and intricacy of the relationship and connection between Dr. Lecter and Clarice can only be fully explored and truly understood in Silence of the Lambs.
And it didn’t take me long to figure that out. It was only a matter of days before I got my hands on a copy of Silence of the Lambs, and basked in all its glory for the first time.
As intriguing as he is in Hannibal, Dr. Lecter is all the more fascinating in Silence of the Lambs. Prior to Agent Starling’s first meeting with Dr. Lecter, Jack Crawford (her superior) and Dr. Frederick Chilton (administrator of the Baltimore forensic hospital where Dr. Lecter is held) gave her clear instructions and procedures, primarily for her safety.
Along with these instructions, she is given descriptions of Dr. Lecter that label him as a pure psychopath and detail some of his most heinous actions, warning her to never forget what he is: a monster.
Clarice braces herself for the worst of the worst as she goes through these briefings, navigates through heavily secured hallways and barred doors, and finally travels down the dark hallway while Multiple Miggs spits and hisses vulgarities at her. But instead of an overtly violent or vicious beast, she finds herself face to face with a well-kept man, poised calmly and confidently, who offers her a courteous greeting.
And from that moment on, through every brief exchange, we see Clarice unravel before Dr. Lecter.
Clarice herself is an incredible character. From the very first scene, her strength and endurance is displayed proudly, and throughout the film we see her incorruptibility and her dedication to her job. She is largely both sympathetic and empathetic, while also carrying her own body bag full of pain and struggle, but these are not her weaknesses, they are her driving force. The thrill of the mystery and the pride in her success are clearly significant, but are penultimate. Her compassion is her greatest motivation. Her compassion is the core of the story of the screaming lambs.
Her compassion is what causes her to see Dr. Lecter as something other than a monster, to see their little similarities and connections, and to see an immense value in his trust, his attention, and his mentor-ship. So much so that she breaks nearly every rule at least once.
As with anyone else, Dr. Lecter is acutely aware of everything that makes her tick, of what to say or do to manipulate her in the subtlest of ways to get what he wants. And while to some it may seem that she was just another pawn in his game, another cog in his plan on escaping his confinement and indulging himself again. In the simplest way, she was, but she was was also so much more to him.
What he wanted more than anything in their exchanges was simply to know her more. To confirm his perceptions and to dig deeper into her conscious, challenging her around every corner just to see how her mind really worked. She was his most interesting patient, his brightest student, and his most precious guest.
And then we have “Buffalo Bill”. Jame Gumb is the serial killer at the center of this film and the sole reason Clarice is even sent to meet Hannibal the Cannibal, but more effectively, he serves as an incredibly stark contrast to Dr. Lecter.
While Dr. Lecter is a fine-tuned machine, Gumb is a loose cannon. One kills for revenge and retribution, and the other kills solely so he can wear his victim’s skin. Gumb is clever and intelligent, yes, but he’s irrational, he’s dramatic, he’s theatrical, he’s loud, and he’s loose.
In place of Dr. Lecter’s charm and intellect, he uses odd speech, awkward social cues, and incredibly simple ploys to get what he wants, and when he doesn’t get it, he reverts to near lunacy. He’s maniacal. He’s a mess. And this contrast between the two of killers makes them both that much more interesting.
In all honesty, Silence of the Lambs is definitely one of the greatest horror / thriller / crime drama films out there, and Dr. Lecter is one of my favorite fictional killers. I truly could go on and on and on about how mesmerized and captivated I am every time I watch it.
I do wish I could chat longer, but…
I’m having an old friend for dinner.
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// GEEK :
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// ABOUT :
Morgan of House Geek, First of Her Name, Mother of a Ton of Funkos, Collector of Things, Writer of Stories, Designer of Websites, Watcher of Films, and Player of Games.
INTJ. Libra-Scorpio Cusp. Slytherin.
Jack of all trades, master of none.
// FUN FACT :
I prefer purchasing trades & volumes more than single issues. I find them to be more durable, so I can enjoy them more and they can easily stand on my display shelves without boards.