Demme’s main aesthetic visual choice here is the close-up (close to the extreme close up eyes by like Leone in the shootout sequences of good the bad and the ugly) with actors facing the camera. He utilized this for the first time during the climax of something wild and it was stunningly effective and gorgeous there. Very few films in cinema history use the close up as often and as effective as the silence of the lambs and it aids the intensity of the scenes and performances
Tak Fujimoto is the DP here- he also worked with close-up aesthetic extraordinaire Tom Hooper on john adams in 2008
It’s a demme film so are cameos galore. We have a very small role here for Tracey Walter, one for Roger Corman, Chris Isaac
It’s simply one of Howard Shore’s greatest musical scores
Hopkins performance lives up to spot it still holds today in cinema and pop-culture. It’s an unflinching and uncompromising performance. There’s little blinking and the close-ups of Demme help tremendously. It would be impossible to duplicate this performance without that choice— his diction is just immaculate—works like “tedious” and of course popular ones like “chianti”
Like many great films many of the attribute seem cliché because it’s been copied so often. This has happened to goodfellas and pulp fiction as well. It’s so influential that the psychological profiling and jargon now seem worn—but we should recognize this for what it is—it’s a brilliant screenplay
Foster is the film’s vehicle and her performance shouldn’t be overlooked because it doesn’t quite match Hopkins. She deals with real male stare throughout the film (cops at the funeral home, with Scott Glenn, with Lector, the Dr. Chilton character).—she’s a character with grit and balls to put it bluntly and crudely—she’s intelligent, ambitious, and inherently good.
Shockingly high amount of close-ups. The lector encounters, the finale with night vision, Ted Levine’s buffalo bill putting on makeup through a mini-montage sequence
Like all demme films the music is done to perfection- not just the score by Howard Shore but the “goodbye horses” haunting scene with Levine’s dance and the “American girl” Tom Petty song introducing us to Brooke Smith’s Catherine Martin victim character. That scene tells us everything we need to know about her and creates instant sympathy
Much has been made of the false editing sequence switching the establishing shot of the house outside Chicago and the house (with buffalo bill) in ohio. We have the false door buzzer as well. I don’t get too moral about these things. I think it is done fairly and, more importantly, it’s wildly effective. The punch wears off after your first viewing but the admiration for the editing craftsmanship still stands (I’ve seen the film 10 times probably). It’s so well done. Another scene, the lighting during the killing of the Charles Napier cop character (gorgeous use of lighting as Hannibal strings him up outside of his little bird cage like prison cell). It’s not practical to the world of the film but it doesn’t take you completely out of it as a viewer so I’m left just admiring the gorgeous mise-en-scene and use of lighting
There’s detail in the mise-en-scene I’m still picking up on. They said here “he used to try and be a lot of thing”- from Hannibal and then in Bill’s house there is older, worn, nazi flyers and swastikas all over the place if you watch carefully
The final shooting reminds me of heat. Her skill and expertise give her a split-second edge after a bright lighting (from his mask the noise here vs pacino with the light and shadow from the jet at the airport)
There are intermittent uses of flashback surrealism within the sequences. Cut to her of a young girl in scene. This reminds me a little of midnight cowboy cutting to Joe Buck’s past
I absolutely love the “having an old friend for dinner” coda/epilogue—it’s not quite Casablanca’s last line but close
It’s disturbing how well this movie shows psychopaths and how they think. The movie is very well made. I had this as a simple R. When I rewatched it today(after maybe 2 ish years), I realized I was incredibly wrong. It’s an MS or an MP. Your notes on the film greatly helped me understand the film in greater detail so the rewatching experience was enhanced for me. The ending line isn’t quite Casablanca level and the use of close-ups isn’t quite The Passion of Joan of Arc level. The movie isn’t really close to as good as the 2 other movies I mentioned but, who cares? It’s still an incredible movie.
Do you see the analysis before or after seeing it?
Well , as I mentioned I had already seen the movie before. Before rewatching the movie again, I just took a quick look at the notes to find out what to look for in the movie.
However, if I am watching a movie for the first time, I read the analysis after watching the movie obviously.
[…] The Silence of the Lambs – Demme […]
Watched the two sequels this weekend
It’s like instead of close-ups being the main weapon like in Silence of the Lambs, Ridley decided on low-framerate, shakey, slow-motion footage. The cast here is pretty packed with Oldman, Hopkins, Moore (replacing Foster) and Liotta. Foster being replaced is a shame but ultimately the film wouldn’t be saved if she reprised the role. Hopkins is pretty sleepy here, I think Oldman walks away with the creepiest performance and he is aided by some great prosthetics reminiscent of John Hurt in The Elephant Man.
The narrative is slow and doesn’t grip. Lecter’s too physically powerful here (that was a slight flaw in Silence when overpowers everyone with his might). On top of the talented cast there’s also Hans Zimmer but his score doesn’t hit like Gladiator’s did the year before (also with Scott). The ending on the plane is cool though.
Red Dragon (2002)
Ratner’s direction is a bit basic and he’s not making it easy on himself by remaking a superb Michael Mann film, but he’s doing it with possibly the best cast you could assemble at the time. Seeing Fiennes, Norton, Kietal (all in Grand Budapest Hotel too), Hopkins, Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Emily Watson all in the same film and all getting to shine in some way makes this worth the watch. There’s also Dante Spinotti who was Mann’s DP on many films including Manhunter (along with Heat and Mohicans which are huge masterpieces) however the lacking here further point towards Mann being the genius behind his own work. Danny Elfman doesn’t do a bad job on the score too.
The Red Dragon narrative also doesn’t pale in comparison to The Silence of the Lamb’s, and the ending tying the tie films together (this is a prequel) is a good touch.
– Solid film, think it’s good enough for a recommended grade. Doesn’t reach a high bar but good entertainment.
@Harry – I have not seen Hannibal since I was like 16. Julianne Moore is one of my 5 or 6 favorite actresses ever but I remember this being the one performance of hers that I did not really care for. I agree with your points on Red Dragon for the most part. It is definitely worth seeing for the performances alone but after that great opening 15 min it obviously is not anywhere near the level of Lambs. The final scene is unfortunately a cookie cutter horror scene that would have been natural in a Friday the 13th movie. Definitely shows the importance of directors for sure.
Have you seen Hannibal the TV show? I don’t watch a ton of TV series which a few exceptions but I have heard nothing but great things about Hannibal which ran for 3 Seasons and starred Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen.
Also I have brought up this before with RujK I believe; there is a great YouTube Series called Analyzing Evil that covers various movie and TV villains and does a highly detailed analysis for the characters. There is a great episode that covers Hannibal Lecter that covers all of the films and Hannibal the TV Show.
@James – thanks for the reply, do yourself a favour a don’t get tempted to revisit Hannibal because of the stellar cast
“Not worth it Mr. Gittes, it’s really not worth it” – Noah Cross
I got through the first season and half of the second season of Hannibal. I found it to be a bit sleepy at times but Mads spin on the character was great, talented actor playing the character as Satan. Ultimately gave up on it but the universe/character interests me. I have no interest in finding Hannibal Rising
I checked out Rob Ager/Collative Learning’s hour long analysis on Lecter and enjoyed that.
@Harry – thanks for advice, I have not had any interest to revisit it and Hannibal Rising never interested me either though I am tempted to check out Hannibal the series if I can find it.