The Silence of the Lambs Screen 17 articles

The Silence of the Lambs


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  • Detective thrillers often concern contests of male ego, involving brilliant investigators who confront physically superior and equally brilliant psychopaths. . . . By contrast, Jonathan Demme's The Silence of the Lambs is grounded in the psyche of a ferocious yet unproven female protagonist, whose thoughtful fragility intensifies the film's violence. . . . The film is a strange and still novel mixture of coming-of-age character study, murder mystery, and Grand Guignol horror spectacle.

  • ...The Silence of the Lambs, by far Demme’s most popular and enduring film, carries all those hallmarks and earns its place as one of the great American films by inundating itself with a thematic density that moves far beyond usual genre fare into something far more iconic and intellectually explosive.

  • Demme’s often subjective camerawork and use of close-ups represent film technique at its most easily parsed and recognisable, and accomplishes the important task not merely of animating the film’s intense, headlong experiential quality, but also in inhabiting the driving notion behind the psychosis of its villains and the method of its heroes.

  • The Lambs Lecter is a Pandora’s box of absolute evil opened in the hope of thwarting a lesser evil, Buffalo Bill. It’s all very Fritz Lang. So much of what makes the movie so rich is coded in: its evocative but subdued expressionist flourishes, the fairy-tale figures of Howard Shore’s eerie score, the conflict between pathology and the irrational, and, of course, all that stuff about eyes.

  • Lambs did seem like a departure, but in retrospect it feels consistent with Demme's work. It's a serial killer thriller that's actually all about empathy: Jodie Foster's determined FBI agent has to enter the mind of a murderer, to see the world through his eyes, in order to catch him. That, in part, is why it's so damn disturbing. The movie also is all about transformations and characters who find it hard to shake the past but who are determined to become something new.

  • [Clarice's great desire is] to escape her gauche, “rube” upbringing (this story is named after a childhood memory of hers, rather than some attribute of the killer, after all) and it’s Demme’s unblinking curiosity about her that makes ‘Silence’ such an unusual horror film. It’s also bloody frightening, with Demme’s realist approach giving even the most baroque flourishes a chilling air of plausibility.

  • Upon re-watch, "Lambs" partly compensates for its queasiness about Jame Gumb's physical self-loathing by giving us one of '90s cinema's sharpest, least fussy portraits of workplace sexism. The story of Clarice Starling's professional ascent is about escaping, subverting and transcending patriarchy... There was no reason to think that Demme could have directed one of the scariest movies ever made, "The Silence of the Lambs," until he did it.

  • A spectral Steadicam shot can orbit Clarice, and it can stalk her, and it can assume her point of view. A stark close-up can seem to sympathize with the person at its center while isolating them and infringing on their privacy. These tools are not harmless, nor are they neutral. This kind-hearted horror movie recognizes that frightening power and wields it like a bolt of lightning.

  • It has something that neither Stop Making Sense, or Citizens Band, nor Married to the Mob nor any of his previous films had: the first is a very cohesive narrative development, something that will explode on the disturbing last act of the film and will justify the nerve-wrecking sequence of Buffalo Bill’s death. The second thing—and this is way more important—that non other of his previous films has is the touch of Grace.

  • More than a couple times, Demme crafts sequences which essentially follow a shot/countershot structure but which meet the characters head-on in the shot, which is not at all the norm. These sequences emphasize Clarice's/Foster's "looked-at-ness"—she usually doesn't look directly at the camera but slightly off to the side—and a male's stronger, more aggressive and direct gaze, which is penetrating and uncomfortable, even for the viewers...

  • Working with a first-rate crew . . . Demme draws the audience close enough to Foster's perspective to share her sense of loneliness and vulnerability. The anecdote behind the title The Silence Of The Lambs suggests what it's like to be a compassionate being in a cruel world, with all the associated trials. Foster's journey makes the film a terrifying fable, and far more than the sum of its overflowing case file.

  • The numerous extreme close-ups (most often direct-eyeline compositions) force our challengingly spiritual identification with its varied band of outsiders. . . . To then accuse Demme of such heartless and insensitive misanthropy seems the dubious product of American literalism, of an inability to grapple with a film’s numerous layers of experience, falling back on easy prejudices and dichotomies as a way of stopping discussion and disagreement cold.

  • As exhilarating as it is harrowing, The Silence of the Lambs is a slasher film in which the woman is hero rather than victim, pursuer rather than pursued.

  • “Hurt/Agony/Pain/Love it or die”: the sign on the FBI Academy assault course is the cue for Jonathan Demme’s omen for the millennium. He and scriptwriter Ted Tally have neatly filleted Thomas Harris’s virtuoso novel to produce a sombre masterpiece, the dark flipside of the brash Married to the Mob, in which an FBI agent falls in love with the woman he is surveying.

  • Demme has finally given up: He`s succumbed to the temptations of movie authoritarianism, making a film about domination that seeks itself to dominate its audience... the film`s deepest appeal lies in the dream of complete callousness, of irresistible power and perfect freedom from moral constraint, that Lecter represents. The film is a power fantasy barely distinguishable from the crudest Arnold Schwarzenegger or Eddie Murphy vehicle, though aimed at a more knowing, more sophisticated public.

  • The Silence of the Lambs is both confusing and implausible as story telling, but it pushes all the right emotional buttons, generating the jolts and suspense it aims for, and it’s stylish to boot... [But] if I were asked to rank these films morally — without reference to aesthetics, technique, or how they made me feel but exclusively in terms of how and what I think they contribute to the welfare of the world — Princes in Exile would get four stars and The Silence of the Lambs would get none.

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    The Globe and Mail: Jay Scott
    February 14, 1991 | Great Scott! (pp. 316-318)

    The plot becomes annoyingly straightforward and predictable, which is bizarre in a Jonathan Demme film – until now, he has been most notable for the carefully detailed peripheries of his pictures. The ending is especially annoying. In a movie that means to be artful esthetically and realistic psychologically, the fates of assorted characters smack of cliffhanging more suitable to the Halloween and Nightmare on Elm Street cycles.

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