81 Days With Oscar And Me

Every Academy Award-Winning Movie, Back to Back, Starting With the First

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Silence Of the Lambs, The

October 22nd, 2009 · No Comments · 1991, Adaptation, Anthony Hopkins, C-Word, Color, Composer: Howard Shore, F-Word, Hannibal Lecter, Jodie Foster, Mid-Point, Orion Pictures Corporation, Plot Point I, Plot Point II, Screenplay Structure, Silence of the Lambs, Thriller

Silence Of the Lambs“Good evening, Clarice.”

The Silence Of the Lambs creeps me out. It did when I first saw it nearly 20 years ago.

And it still does.

There’s a grotesqueness to this movie that emits a kind of psychic stench that clings to me, like the cloying smell of maple-flavored bacon that lingers in the kitchen many hours after breakfast is over. I almost feel like I need to take a very hot shower after watching this film. And even then I can’t rid myself of the grime.

The main reason for that – aside from serial killer Jame Gumb (Ted Levine), another truly frightening character – is Anthony Hopkins.

Anthony HopkinsThere is no character in the history of cinema more intense than Hannibal Lecter. Anthony Hopkins’ performance is like a fatal car crash from which one cannot turn away. I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s as if he was possessed by demons from hell. Look at those eyes!

Screenplay Structure – The Silence of the Lambs

Act I

Inciting Incident: At the 7:00 mark, Jack Crawford (Scott Glenn) tells Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) he wants her to talk to Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) at the asylum where he is incarcerated. That event sets the movie in motion.

Plot Point I: At 30:58 Dr. Lecter tells Clarice, “What I want is a view. I want a window where I can see a tree. Or even water. I want to be in a federal institution far away from Dr. Chilton…I’m offering you a psychological profile of Buffalo Bill, based on the case evidence…I’ll help you catch him, Clarice.”

That tease from Lecter – what he would call quid pro quo – sets up major questions in the mind of the audience. “What happens next?” and “Will the FBI go for it? If so, will it help Clarice catch Buffalo Bill?”

Act II

Mid Point: At 52:10 into the movie, Clarice visits Dr. Lecter again, this time to say, “If your profile helps us catch Buffalo Bill in time to save Catherine Martin, the Senator promises you a transfer to the V.A. hospital at Oneida Park, New York, with a view of the woods nearby…” She also promises that he will get one week out of the year to walk on a deserted island.

Lecter then engages Clarice in a game of quid pro quo (“something for something”) in which they trade information, she of a personal nature, he about Buffalo Bill (“Billy,” as he calls him). This ends around 57 minutes into the movie.

This is a key exchange between these two characters, and important information is revealed. More important than that, however, is that this sets up Dr. Lecter’s move from the institution to Memphis, Tennessee. He is placed in a large cage in an empty room…from which he violently escapes.

The second half of the movie gets really gory. The scene of Dr. Lecter’s escape from the cell is unforgettable, as is the manner in which he tricks everyone and escapes from the building entirely. This was a brilliant scene and these images are seared into my brain.

Plot Point II: Shortly after Dr. Lecter escapes, Clarice and fellow FBI student Ardelia (Kasi Lemmons) discuss the case again. They realize, at about the 1:27:10 mark (one hour, 27 minutes, 10 seconds) that Buffalo Bill saw the women he killed. “He knew her,” Clarice says of the first victim. The next scene is of Clarice in her car driving to the neighborhood where the girl lived.

Clarice spends time in the deceased girl’s room and realizes who and what Buffalo Bill is. She phones her boss only to be told they already know who and where “Billy” is.

Cut to: The scene of Jame Gumb dressing as a woman while Catherine, the victim-to-be trapped in the well in the basement of Buffalo Bill’s home, tries to trap “Precious,” Buffalo Bill’s little doggie. That scene, alone, is enough to give one nightmares.

The movie culminates with a showdown in the dark between Clarice and Jame Gumb, she groping blindly and he wearing night-vision goggles sneaking up behind her.

The Cast
Jodie Foster (1962- )……………………….Clarice Starling
Anthony Hopkins (1937- )………………..Dr. Hannibal Lecter
Scott Glenn (1941- )………………………..Jack Crawford
Anthony Heald (1944- )……………………Dr. Frederick Chilton
Ted Levine (1957- )…………………………Jame ‘Buffalo Bill’ Gumb
Frankie Faison (1949- )……………………Barney Matthews
Kasi Lemmons (1961- )……………………Ardelia Mapp
Brooke Smith (1967- )……………………..Catherine Martin

Directed By:
Jonathan Demme (1944- )

Written By:
Thomas Harris, 1940- (novel)
Ted Tally, 1952- (screenplay)

The Silence Of the Lamb was nominated for seven Academy Awards, winning five: Best Actor in a Leading Role (Anthony Hopkins), Best Actress in a Leading Role (Jodie Foster), Best Director (Jonathan Demme), Best Picture, and Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium (Ted Tally)

Although this isn’t a movie you’d want to watch with your pastor (this is the first occurrence of the dread C-word in a Best-Picture Oscar winner), Silence Of the Lambs is a remarkable achievement, one of the most riveting – and revolting – movies ever made.

If unforgettable is the hallmark of a great film, Silence Of the Lambs takes its place on Mt. Olympus.

I just wish it was a little more forgettable.

After all, I have to try to sleep tonight.


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