“Believe me, you don’t want Hannibal Lecter inside of your head.” Though Dr. Chilton (Anthonly Heald) gave the warning to Clarice (Jodie Foster), it almost felt like a subtle warning to the viewer. The beauty of Jonathan Demme’s psychological-horror, The Silence of the Lambs, is that most of the scares in the movie come from the uncomfortable nature and presentation of the characters and their motivations. The film follows the FBI cadet, Clarice, as she attempts to get advice and help from Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins), an incarcerated cannibal, to stop mass murderer, Buffalo Bill.
The movie plays on the viewers engagement and understanding of each of the characters and their respective motivations. During dialogue scenes, the camera usually fully focuses on whoever is talking with no distractions. This helps create the effect that the characters are talking to us and generates a deeper investment into the characters and the story.
Claire’s treatment also highlights the way our gazes constantly reinforce and generate certain expectations. Despite being intelligent and qualified, she is often treated as eye candy by almost every male she meets. This creates a voyeuristic juxtaposition which highlights and makes the horror more palpable. Because we relate to and understand the character more we feel her plight. But because we’re also outside viewers it becomes easier to watch the way society objectifies her. Simultaneously, a subject and an object- the identification made me feel unnerved by revealing my own biases while watching.
Scares here are less visceral and more subtle. Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins steal the show here and their lengthy dialogues are tense and informative. Even though they spend most of their time just talking to each other, the delivery and pacing, made the scenes feel far more “impactful” than traditional dialogue. Since the human psyche here is the battlefield, it makes sense that the action comes through best in the intellectual probing battle,as both characters try to feel each other out. Horror here mainly comes from thoughts and suggestions. There are some disturbing images through the movie, but they’re used sparingly to preserve impact and to highlight the psychological terror.
TLDR: The Silence of the Lambs is a terrifying romp through the human psyche. It forces us to confront our own biases and asks us uncomfortable questions about the way we act in this world.
Final Rating: 10/10. If you enjoy psychological movies or like shows like Mindhunter or Criminal Minds, then you’ll end up loving this. This might be one of the most unnerving movies I’ve ever watched and I know I’ll come back to it eventually.
Go to Page 2 for my spoiler-full thoughts!