The Silence of the Lambs

Bomb Rating: 

What cop in his right mind actually steps inside Lecter's cage? Idiots. Come feeding time, I stand about fifty feet from his cage and spray baby food to him with a fire hose. The hell if he's cutting my face off.

After the psychotic Hannibal "The Cannibal" Lecter (AnthonyHopkins) agrees to help Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) track down the serial killer known as Buffalo Bill (Ted Levine), Clarice tells Lecter some stupid story about how she spent time on a farm after her father's death. There on the farm, she was scared by the screams coming from the slaughterhouse where the kind rancher was butchering lambs, presumably so his family -- and probably Clarice -- could do that thing that keeps us alive: eat.

Now wouldn't this story call for the title, "The Screaming of the Lambs"? Nobody mentions the silence of anything. Even in the final scene, the brief silence is quickly broken by a phone call, which, in terms of a narrative device, turns about to be about as subtle strapping a bullhorn to a lamb's mouth and then sticking a hot cattle prod up its anus. Using that analogy, 1% of the film is silence, while the rest of it is lamb wailing.

The critical sequence for Lecter in the film is based on two cinematic clichés that are rather tiresome. First, director Jonathan Demme shows Lecter locked down like a mummy, cuts to a pen and then cuts away. Later, Lecter regurgitates part of the pen. After regurgitating the pen, Demme hits the second cliché, which is when the cops treat Lecter like some kind of misunderstood puppy. Regarding the former: Did I miss the critical telekinesis scene? Regarding the latter: What cop in his right mind actually steps inside Lecter's cage? Idiots. Come feeding time, I stand about fifty feet from his cage and spray baby food to him with a fire hose. The hell if he's cutting my face off.

Despite looking like she stepped off a modeling runway -- whether after running the obstacle course or shooting a serial killer -- Clarice's glamour is intentionally dimmed by that most common of cinematic devices: the Ford Pinto. In case we miss Demme's other attempts to ram Clarice's pathetic psychology down our throats, we're constantly reminded that her life teeters on the abyss by her choice of transportation. Cross this film with "Top Secret" and Demme might have at least prevented "Nell."

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