Blindspot: The Silence of the Lambs

silence of the lambs

It's a very serendipitous blindspot pick for me this month, since I just happened to get  on blu-ray, in a 2-for-1 deal, and I thought that it would be a good film to write about this month (the other film in that deal was the blu-ray for Donnie Darko, which will be the subject of a special “Revisiting…” post next week).

The Silence of the Lambs is known for a lot of things.  Most notably, it featured the breakout roles for both Jodie Foster and .  It is also generally considered to be the only horror film to win Best Picture at the Oscars (though I'd admit calling it “horror” is a bit of a stretch).

The story of The Silence of the Lambs is as follows: FBI trainee Clarice Starling (Foster) goes to seek the advice of the brilliant, yet insane, Dr. Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lecter (Hopkins) in order to help find the sadistic serial killer Buffalo Bill.  Throughout their encounters, Lecter forces Starling to confront her troubled past, which provides her motivation for finding the killer.

I already knew this before seeing the film, but I have to say that Anthony Hopkins is excellent as Hannibal Lecter.  He plays the role as very calm, yet vaguely sinister.  He is never upfront with his motivations and while he seems to be sincere in wanting to help Clarice Starling find Buffalo Bill, it is also obvious that he has his own agenda.  It definitely says a lot when every villainous role Hopkins has played since The Silence of the Lambs has been compared in some way to Hannibal Lecter.

I wasn't as blown away with Jodie Foster's performance as Clarice Starling.  I think that she was good for the time period when there weren't as many strong female performances.  Nowadays, these types of roles are much more common and you could almost argue that Clarice Starling was one of the roles that got this started.

I have to admit that while I was watching the film, I was trying to find justification about why the film not only won Best Picture at the Oscars, but swept the five major categories.  My conclusion is that it was a sign of the times.  I have to say that I liked The Silence of the Lambs, but I wasn't blown away by it.  At the 1992 Oscars, the film was against Beauty and the Beast, Bugsy, JFK, and The Prince of Tides, in which it's probably safe to say that it was not the strongest competition.  While The Silence of the Lambs might still get nominated in today's 5-10 film nomination system, I'm not sure if it would actually win in this day and age.

That said, there is still a lot I liked about the film.  The film was at its best during the one-on-one encounters between Clarice Starling and Hannibal Lecter, especially the final one where Starling fully opens up about her past.  I also thought that the climax of the film, where Starling finally confronts Buffalo Bill was quite tense (especially through its use of Buffalo Bill's POV).

I was also somewhat expecting the film to be more violent than it is.  While there are definitely many grisly images in the film, you almost expect it to be more intense when one of the central characters is nicknamed “Hannibal the Cannibal.”

Overall, I will repeat that I overall liked The Silence of the Lambs.  While I still can't understand the reasoning why this genre film swept the Oscars, it is still an enjoyable, and at times tense, crime thriller.

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Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly is a freelance film critic and blogger based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.