Sunday, June 15, 2014

Top 39 Things I Love About The Silence of the Lambs (that no one talks about)

Jonathan Demme’s The Silence of the Lambs is one of my favorite suspense thrillers. Its narrative precision, unique cinematography, impeccable acting and flawless production design all make the film endlessly rewatchable. Here are a handful of things I love about the film that are rarely discussed. Enjoy!

The fact that Scott Glenn gets his credit before the title card.


Speaking of those titles – they’re absolutely perfect. Simple yet jarring, unassuming yet commanding.


Always a treat when extras look into the camera by mistake. Oops.


The production design of Jack Crawford’s office. Normally, filmmakers would put a hot shit FBI official in a lavish corner office with a nice view. But this concrete dungeon is as disconcerting as it is authentic.


“Will you be in Baltimore overnight…? Because this can be quite a fun town if you have the right guide.” I just love Anthony Heald. In his introductory scene, he immediately justifies his fate.


The composition of these two shots. Clarice’s shot from below expertly captures her detached fear. Chilton’s from above displays his arrogant gravitas.


The inital reveal of Hannibal Lecter is one of the best character introductions in all of cinema. Howard Shore’s score crescendos at just the right moment, the camera moves effortlessly, and there’s Anthony Hopkins, standing eager and polite, waiting to be discovered.


“Clllooooossseeeerrrr.”


Cinematographer Tak Fujimoto encourages characters to look directly into the camera while delivering dialogue (see: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Philadelphia). Never has his use of this device been more effective than in this film.


I love Clarice’s self-effacing laughter when she first asks Lecter to look at the FBI questionnaire. She knows her segue is, indeed, ham-handed.


“No, no you ate yours.” Gotta love Clarice proving from the onset that she’s got a little fight in her.


I LOVE the way Lecter yells “GO NOW!” It’s as emotive as he gets in the whole film. What a force of nature.


The chuckle Clarice lets out when she suggests that the storage unit door might fall on her.


Much of the brilliance of this film is that it’s not a whodunit. The mystery isn’t discovering who Buffalo Bill is; the mystery is trying to realize what he’s going to do next.


The jump cut of Clarice being pulled out of boxing class to the faux street chase.


Notice how Clarice’s southern accent becomes more pronounced when she’s speaking with the West Virginia police. A nice little touch, one that’s common practice amongst southerners trying to fit in.


Jonathan Demme loves character actors, and thankfully, this film is full of them. Character actors have the best faces, don’t they?


The sound of the flash resetting as Clarice examines Buffalo Bill’s latest victim. So very Texas Chainsaw Massacre.


The sound of the air that escapes the victim’s mouth as a bug is pulled from her throat.


Of course Demme would have a poster for a B-movie hanging in a FBI common room.


The way Bill’s lip quivers as Catherine is pleading for her life. For a fraction of a second, we see that he does indeed have a soul.


Chilton lying on Lecter’s bed. What a smug asshole.


Listen carefully when Chilton orders Barney to leave Lecter’s cell. Lecter whispers Barney’s name, but why? Out of fear? Fear of what Chilton may do? Or fear of what he may do to Chilton?


Roger Corman, Jonathan Demme’s mentor, playing the Director of the FBI.


The simple design of Lecter’s new makeshift cell. You can just tell danger is lurking there.


Clarice’s lamb story is a great lesson in simplicity. It’s such a basic yet captivating tale; one that defines her life. The scene is also a testament to Jodie Foster’s acting. It takes a lot of skill to sell simplicity.


Part of what makes the death of these two guards so horrific is that they actually appear to be decent guys. It would’ve been so easy to play the guards as assholes. Instead, they’re just normal fellas who have no idea what they’re in for.


“Mind the drawings, please.”


This is the moment The Silence of the Lambs turns from a great detective thriller, to a fucking classic work of American cinema.


Danny Darst and his truly excellent moustache.


Chris Isaak, SWAT badass.


My mom tells a great story that when she saw this film in the theater, she couldn’t hear the movie for a good 60 seconds following this shot. People were screaming and running out of the theater. It was hysteria.


“He won’t come after me. He won’t. I can’t explain it – he would consider that rude.” I love the efficiency of this line. It’s arguably my favorite line of the whole film.


I know the crosscutting of the FBI crashing Jame Gumb’s house with Clarice actually meeting Gumb has been discussed ad nauseam. But that’s for good reason. It’s one of the very finest uses of crosscutting ever executed.


Scott Glenn’s impeccable delivery of “…Clarice.”


The way Clarice fumbles while removing her gun from her holster. A great and authentic detail.


Gumb letting the business cards drop so elegantly from his fingers.


I would love to know the technical circumstances on set when they shot this scene. Foster is so damn strong, you really can’t tell that there is an entire film crew there with her. She’s so alone.


“The world’s more interesting with you in it.” What a line.




36 comments:

  1. One of the few Best Picture winners that actually deserved its Oscar while having some balls to be frightening and all of that shit.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, absolutely. Unfortunately, there are very few films we can say that about.

      Delete
  2. Love the format of this. Makes me want to go watch Silence of the Lambs again for all the things I missed!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting! Really happy you dig the post.

      Delete
  3. God, what a fantastic film! One of my favourites, this list has made me want to watch it again. No matter what bizarre/safe choices the Academy makes, they have earned my respect forever by giving awards to movies like this, The French Connection and The Deer Hunter, as well as many others.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Isn't this movie so great? I do give the Academy a lot of crap, but occasionally, they make some truly great choices. Awarding this film so highly is certainly one of them.

      Delete
  4. This is a great post! I love this film so much, one of my favourite horrors/thrillers for sure. I love your attention to detail here - I'm now going to go and read all the other posts you've done in this series haha

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Caitlin! Glad you enjoyed this post. Really appreciate you giving the other ones a read as well.

      Delete
  5. Brilliant post! I adore this film. It never gets boring and it's because of all these details. Hannibal's intro, Clarice's story, everything about Chilton- it's all perfect. My favourite of these must be the one with your mom's story. Man, that would've been awesome! I don't think I've ever seen a film like this in a theatre, much less a packed theatre. That would be quite the experience.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Nik! In all my years of going to movies in the theater, I've never experienced anything like what my mom is talking about. But in 1991, movies like this simply weren't made. Or at least they weren't seen by masses of people. I would've loved to have been in that theater.

      Delete
  6. Thanks....you know my love for this one. Though Glenn is not my favorite Crawford ��, Hopkins is one of my idols of all time and what a picture! So many perfectly timed shots and moments that could take the viewer's breath away. I'll always treasure this picture and the time I got to spend near it. One of the best lines, and creepiest for me, was at the end, "I'm going to have an old friend for lunch."

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ahhh that final scene is just the best. His delivery of the line is chillingly perfect. And yes, good as Scott Glenn is, he is not the best Jack Crawford ;)

      Delete
  7. Ok, if I had to rank the posts I've read in this fantastic blog of yours, this would make it easily in Top 3. I fuckin' love the brilliance of your every sentence here. This is a fuckin' amazing post, you must be really proud of what you did here, buddy, mark my words. I love this film, it's undoubtedly one of the greatest thrilles ever but damn it, the way you analyze why you love it so much makes me appreciate it even more than I already do, which truly says something of your amazing writing skills. You have thanked me many times for my compliments, but I've told you man, they come from the heart, 'cause your talent is fuckin' unbelievable. The one to thank is your own abilities. Keep going, buddy. You're a fuckin' genius.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Stergios, wow, again man, you humble me with your praise. Thank you so very much for this comment. It's great to hear that you're such a fan of Lambs, and it is always a delight to hear that you enjoy my writing. Thanks buddy!

      Delete
  8. Terrific post! You mentioned some of my favorites here, including the awesome Anthony Heald and "the moustache guy." I too love the shot with Chilton and Starling as she proceeds to meet Dr. Lecter for the first time.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks! Heald is such a little snake in this film. In some ways, he's like the film's third villain. Love it.

      Delete
  9. One thing I love about this movie that no one talks about is Ted Levine's performance. Especially since I watched practically every episode of Monk before I saw this movie, and I had absolutely no idea that Buffalo Bill was played by Captain Stottlemeyer. He fit into the role that well.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love that performance so much. Poor Levine got so much shit when this film was released, but I'm glad society has been kinder to the performance over the years. Bill really is in no way a condemnation of the LGBT community. He's just some crazy fucker who is misunderstood by everyone, most of all himself.

      Delete
  10. Great post about a truly great movie. Makes me realize it's time to give it another rewatch. October will be here before you know it (ridiculous foreshadowing of future events on my own blog). I will be on the lookout for some of the small details you pointed out.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks man! Never a bad time to rewatch this film, especially around Halloween time.

      Delete
  11. Wow, great list, this is one of my favorite movies to watch, the crosscutting scene, man I went ballistic the first time I saw it, absolutely great. Anyway this is the first time I have commented on your blog, I found it just a few weeks ago, and I love every bit of it. It was only like a year and a half ago I started to become crazy about film, and let me tell you, I have only become more crazy with your blog. I have read almost everything now and love it all. In the past few weeks, since I have gotten off of school, I have watching so many great films, many because of the high praise you gave them, I guess I should really say thank you. Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wow man, thanks so much for those kind words! They really mean a lot to me. That's so cool that you've gotten into film, and I am really happy that this blog has helped give you some movie recommendations. In all honesty, hearing things like that is what makes blogging worth it. So, thank YOU, my friend.

      Delete
  12. Great writeup Alex. One of my favorite movies of all time. It is as perfect as it is. Good choices on "Bug" and Billy's expression.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Nika. I agree, a perfect film indeed. Love this one.

      Delete
  13. I really need to rewatch that movie soon, it's just timeless. So well made and the performances are utterly brilliant. The fear captured in that night vision scene with Clarice alone in the basement is unreal.

    I completely believe your mother's story- that was a horrific moment!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So happy to hear that you're a fan of this one. I absolutely love it. I don't think I've never experienced something like what my mom was talking about in a theater before. That'd be insane.

      Delete
  14. "Character actors have the best faces, don’t they?"

    Yes, yes they do.

    This is great, man. Been ages since I watched this, and I really want to revisit it soon.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks man! I love the way character actors look. Their faces are often so damn expressive.

      Delete
  15. I can still remember the first time I watched this film. I was alone in my parent's basement late at night and was completely terrified when Clarice was down in Gumb's basement. I wasn't able to go down there for about two weeks just cause I was so freaked out by that scene. So freaking chilling, and having watched it again recently, it still stands up as one of the most edge-of-your-seat scenes in all of cinema.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Those are pretty much the exact same circumstances I saw the movie under, which is priceless. Movie scared the ever living shit out of me when I first saw it. Still gives me the creeps today. Love it.

      Delete
  16. I just love the way you dissect a film! Jesus, your posts are perfect!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks man! And thanks for linking to this post on your site!

      Delete
  17. Out of curiosity, do you watch or have you see the show Hannibal? It's surprisingly good. Like, Mikklesen makes the character his own, and the show is strange, and has excellent cinematography, and is incredibly violent for a network show. There really isn't anything like it currently on television.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You know, I've actually never seen it, even though I keep hearing great things about it. I'm really bad with TV though, have a lot of trouble making time for it. Maybe I'll binge watch all the seasons one day.

      Delete
  18. Stellar work, as always! I rewatched this last year when you mentioned it in a post, and it really is a masterful thriller. It's awesome that a thriller released in February actually won Best Picture.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks man! I watched the long Making Of doc for this film while working on this post, and they said that no movie released in February had ever won Best Picture, so they didn't even think it would be nominated for anything. Crazy.

      Delete