it’s February 13th 1991 you’ve never
seen Jonathan Demme’s The Silence of the Lambs you don’t know that in a
staggering 13 months it’ll become one of just three films in history to win the
top 5 Oscars at the Academy Awards as a matter of fact you don’t know anything
except with the friend who’s dragged you down to the local AMC to see it has told
you it’s a scary movie about a serial killer named Hannibal Lecter who eats
people and this other guy who makes human body suits out of his victims fun
ok but now imagine the concession line was a bit long you rush into the theatre
two minutes since the film and you see this a woman running in the woods but
remember scary movie right so maybe you fill in a few details of your own
because how many times have you seen that exact shot in a horror movie or
this shot of someone trying desperately to open up their car door at night to
make their escape from an impending threat these are tropes and from them
are born preconceptions about images linked with singular contexts within a
genre when in reality Jodie Foster’s Clarice Starling is actually completing
an obstacle course at an FBI training facility outside of Quantico she’s
actually investigating a murder and breaking into an old car to find
evidence now these shots aren’t meant to trick you there are context within the
Silence of the Lambs is perfectly clear but I think director Jonathan Demme has
put them in deliberately and I think they represent everything brilliant
about this movie it asks us to forget all we’ve seen before all we thought we
knew about the genre about its characters about what it means to be an
Oscar contender don’t measure this film against any of that read Marcus Aurelius
of each particular thing asked what is it in itself what is its nature
now there is some debate as to whether the sons of the lambs is in fact a
horror movie or whether it should be classified a psychological thriller but
however you want to spin it the fact is before 1992 no movie as horrific had
ever won the Oscar for Best Picture let alone swept for Best Actress Best Actor
Best Director and Best Screenplay and why shouldn’t it have Jonathan Demi’s
film has all the makings of an esteemed Oscar pleasing Hollywood production –
the genre Jodie Foster’s performance is a master class in naturalism her fears
her strengths her insecurities her responses to her environment they are
each played out reactively and instinctively the character of Clarice
Starling abandons the preconception of women in the genre in place of someone
real someone motivated not by plot or archetype but by her immediate
circumstances and her past traumas someone endowed with the resolve to
overcome obstacles and the later help those in the film who cannot do the same
man Tommy what it makes say to you multiple names in the next but her
foster is remarkably understated and her Starling remarkably human Anthony
Hopkins Hannibal Lecter is another story completely in fact what blows my mind
every time I see Hopkins and foster share scenes together is just how
contrasting their acting styles are Hopkins deliveries are clinically
precise spoken in a voice that’s one third Katharine Hepburn one third Truman
Capote and one third Stanley Kubrick’s how nine thousand hello day good evening Hannibal is driven not by his own emotions or his humanity but by his
fascination for and constant study of the emotions of others his demeanor is
at once inviting and predatory almost reptilian cold and calculated
the psychiatrist he once was and it’s as though every word Hopkins speaks every
motion he makes is performed by his own deliberate cognitive volition not as a
reaction and not by instinct and racks Island there was an especially nice
touch Clarice yours you can’t quite get a firm read on him because well he’s too
busy reading you when asked about the character of Hannibal Lecter Silence of
the Lambs screenwriter Ted tally it once said the more you explain him the less
he is I don’t want to know that somebody hurt his puppy when he was eight years
old I don’t want him to be conventionally motivated less is more
tally wasn’t kidding either across the film’s total 118 minute runtime Anthony
Hopkins is on screen for just 16 of them one of the shortest Best Actor Oscar
wins of all time it’s an unprecedented performance that might have very well
unbalanced the movie had it been reveled in for any longer but what’s so
brilliant about Hannibal is how his presence in the script spills over those
16 minutes Lecter himself is preceded by his own
mythologized reputation the first scene in his cell maybe when Starling first
meets him but it isn’t the scene were first introduced to him this is Jack
Crawford’s office five minutes into the movie where Demi and Talley and Thomas
Harris to whose original novel tali screenplay was adapted from give us a
deliberately cursory understanding of what this character has done
Hannibal what makes him dangerous believe me you don’t want Hannibal
Lecter inside your head and what he is oh he’s a monster it’s just enough to form an image but
not enough to fill it in with the full truth these past the others the last
show you keep the rape each inmate that Starling passes on the way to Hannibal
cell is more maniacal and frenetic than the last
by all accounts Hannibal should surpass them all that he doesn’t he’s calm
collected standing at attention in a neat form fitted jumpsuit Hopkins idea
by the way and it isn’t that Hopkins or his portrayal of Hannibal undermines
anything that’s been said about him after all he has killed people and eaten
them rather it’s that the character defines for itself the nature of the
monster in a horror movie what is its nature now through expression through
physicality a great actor can convey self-possession discomfort curiosity
nervousness intimidation fear or subtle combinations of each however is truly
powerful as the human face is in communicating the language a physical
expression is still a primitive one one of the great boons of a novel is the
ability it has to devote space to thought to inner monologuing insight
into the way external actions and words impact the emotional psyches of our
characters one of Ted Talley and Jonathan Demme’s greatest challenges when
making the Silence of the Lambs and in turn one of their greatest successes was
finding a way to paint Clarice starlings internal experiences onto the
screen in particular her experience as a woman in a male-dominated workplace the
power of eyes and the human gaze completely pervade the silence of the
lambs through Demme’s use of the subjective camera much of the film is
presented to us through starlings eyes and we see firsthand that Clarice is
almost always being viewed by the men around her as either an object of desire
or one of contempt but Demi doesn’t want us to witness these objectification –zz
these preconceived Sep shins like some bystander characters
speak and glare directly into the camera directly at Starling directly at us electors gaze Pierce’s bit deeper than
the rest though like a Viper Hopkins never blinks except the most deliberate
moments we’re doing so feels almost hypnotic we can actually track the
moment Lecter has begun to creep inside starlings head by tracking demme and
cinematographer tak Fujimoto’s camerawork when things transition from
conventional over-the-shoulder shots to demi his signature POVs this motif
ultimately comes to a head at the film’s climax though with the omniscient eyes
of Buffalo Bill a man able to view Clarice without restraint social or
otherwise rendering Clarice not only emotionally but now physically powerless
trapped under the gaze of a man she can’t even see it’s an expertly
conceived cinematic through-line and one that can be truly terrifying
I mentioned at the start of this video that the Silence of the Lambs won at the
Oscars a staggering 13 months after it released that’s because most Best
Picture winners throughout history have been released after August so that they
might still be remembered cum awards season but not this movie The Silence of
the Lambs won on its own merits and it forced the Academy for once to look past
what they think they know about what a prestigious Hollywood film should look
like most genre films face an uphill climb to the Academy’s recognition they
are often undervalued and underrepresented at the Academy Awards I
don’t think the Oscars asked each one what is it in itself measuring each
instead against a preconception of a genre that simply doesn’t fit inside
their particular mould every so often something slips through or maybe is let
through but Jonathan Demme’s the Silence of the Lambs is just one piece of
evidence that great cinema great performances themes and world-class
filmmaking is not tied to genre it’s tied only to the brilliant people who
tell the story that they want to tell everyone I’m Danny thank you so much for
watching consider subscribing if you haven’t already and a huge thank you to
my patreon supporters for helping to make this channel possible to become a
patron queue you can go to patreon.com/cinemastix until next time

Author Since: Mar 11, 2019

  1. Fantastic video! I once went as Hannibal for Halloween. My mom wouldn't let me wear the mask so I carried around a bottle of grape juice and some gobstoppers and told people they were my fava beans and chianti haha

  2. Great analysis and very enjoyable commentary, Danny. I've watched this movie more times than I care to remember, but it gives me sleepiness nights even now. I totally agree with you that Demme's use of eyes was one of the main reasons why this movie is what it is. Loving your channel.

  3. While I found the videos I expected this channel to babe hundreds of thousands if subs due to the quality, but all I can say now is I truly hope you grow

  4. As an occupant of life's lower rungs of literacy, I can only stare to the sky in admiration of this appraisal.
    Silence, remains one of the finest pieces of original art ever produced. Hopkins's charisma almost has me rooting for his escape.
    In answer to the question in description, my all time favourite villain is Stephen Boyd's Tribune Messala from Ben Hur.

    Becoming one of my most eagerly anticipated channels. Bravo.

  5. It's a psychological thriller. Horror movies, sans perhaps "ghost stories" have an overwhelming tendency to include gratuitous violence. In this movie violence is constantly suggested – but only its consequences are displayed… example: the policeman's butterflied body displayed, etc. etc.

  6. Yeah… I hate to say it, but I think Lecter started by creeping into Starling's "naughty word", on his WAY to her head… lol.

  7. Where did that request for "favorite movie vilains" get to? Mine? Adrian Brody's character in "The Village", and Jeremy Davies' character in Solaris (2002) – Davies is only topped for brilliant eccentricity by Rory Cochrane in A Scanner Darkly (not a villain)… , AND Robert Downey Jr. in same film – DEFINITELY a villain, and another briliant performance. DANNY! DO "A Scanner Darkly" or something about the ubiguitous influence of Philip K. Dick on the Sci Fi movie Genre (or even the ubiguitous mood and setting, and everthing else influence of Bladerunner on the same…. OR ELSE! lol…

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