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Monday, December 1, 2008

The Silence of the Lambs (1991)


May The Silence Be Broken!

The Silence of the Lambs is a 1991 suspense film directed by Jonathan Demme and starring Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, Scott Glenn, Anthony Heald and Ted Levine. It is based on the novel of the same name by Thomas Harris, his second to feature Dr. Hannibal Lecter, brilliant psychiatrist and cannibalistic serial killer. In the film, Clarice Starling, a young FBI trainee, seeks the advice of the imprisoned Lecter on catching a serial killer known only as "Buffalo Bill". The film won the top five Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Actor and Best Actress.

Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster gained overwhelming acclaim with their portrayals of Hannibal Lecter and Clarice Starling, even though Hopkins' screen time in the entire film is just over 16 minutes. Their respective portrayals won both of them Academy Awards in 1992, and Hopkins' portrayal as of 2008 remains the shortest lead role ever to win an Oscar.

Promising student Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) is pulled from her training at the FBI Academy at Quantico, Virginia by Jack Crawford (Scott Glenn) of the Bureau's Behavioral Science Unit. Crawford tasks her with interviewing the notorious Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins), the brilliant psychiatrist and incarcerated cannibalistic serial killer, believing Lecter's insight would be useful in the pursuit of vicious serial killer Buffalo Bill. Starling travels to the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane, where she is led by Dr. Frederick Chilton to Hannibal Lecter, the sophisticated, cultured man restrained behind thick glass panels and windowless stone walls.

Although initially pleasant and courteous, Lecter grows impatient with Starling's attempts at "dissecting" him and viciously rebuffs her. As Starling departs, another patient flings fresh semen onto her face, enraging Lecter, who calls Starling back and suggests she consult one of his former patients. Starling interprets the patient's name as a riddle. It leads her to a storage lot where she discovers a man's severed head. She returns to Lecter, who tells her that the man is Benjamin Raspail, who is linked to Buffalo Bill. Though Lecter denies killing Raspail, he offers to profile Buffalo Bill if he is transferred away from the venomous, careerist Dr. Chilton.

Hours and miles away, Buffalo Bill abducts Catherine Martin, the daughter of United States Senator Ruth Martin. Starling is again pulled from Quantico and accompanies Crawford to West Virginia, where the body of another of Bill's victims has been found. Starling helps perform the autopsy and extracts the chrysalis of a Death's-head Hawkmoth from the victim's throat. At Quantico, as news of Catherine Martin's abduction sweeps the country, Crawford authorizes Starling to offer Hannibal Lecter a fake deal promising a prison transfer if he provides information that helps profile Buffalo Bill and rescue Catherine Martin. Instead, Lecter begins a game of quid pro quo with Starling, offering comprehensive clues and insights about Buffalo Bill in exchange for events from Starling's traumatic childhood, something she was advised not to do.

Unbenown to both Starling and Lecter, Dr. Chilton tapes the conversation and reveals Starling's deal as a sham, before offering to transfer Lecter in exchange for a deal of Chilton's making. Lecter agrees and is flown to Tennessee where he reveals information on Buffalo Bill to Senator Martin and her entourage of FBI agents and Justice Department officials. Lecter claims that Buffalo Bill was the gay lover of his former patient, Raspail, whose head Starling found. He even gives a name, but Starling believes that it is just an anagram and a false lead.

As the manhunt begins, Starling travels to Lecter's special cell in a Tennessee courthouse and confronts him about the false information he gave the Senator. Lecter refuses Starling's pleas for the truth and demands she finish her story surrounding her worst childhood memory. Starling tells of how she was orphaned, relocated to a relative's farm, discovered the horror of their lamb slaughterhouse and her fruitless attempt to rescue one of the lambs. Lecter gives her the case files on Buffalo Bill, before their conversation is interrupted by Dr. Chilton and the police who escort her from the building.

Later that evening, Lecter escapes from his cell. The local police storm the floor when they hear gunshots, discovering one guard barely alive and the other eviscerated and strung up on the walls. Paramedics transport the survivor to an ambulance and speed off while a SWAT team searches the building for Lecter. As the team discover a faceless body in the elevator shaft, the survivor in the ambulance peels off his face, revealing Lecter in disguise. He kills the paramedics, murders another man for his money and papers and escapes to the airport.

Notified of Lecter's escape, Starling pores over her case files, analyzing Lecter's annotations before realizing that the first victim, Frederica Bimmel, knew Bill in real life before he killed her. Starling travels to Bimmel's hometown and discovers that Bimmel was a tailor, with dresses and templates identical to the patches of skin removed from Buffalo Bill's victims. Realizing that Buffalo Bill is a tailor fashioning a "woman suit" of real skin, she telephones Crawford, who is already preparing to make an arrest, having cross-referenced Lecter's notes with Johns Hopkins Hospital and finding a man named Jame Gumb who once applied for a sex-change operation. Crawford instructs Starling to continue interviewing Bimmel's friends while he leads a SWAT team to Gumb's address in Calumet City, Illinois. Starling's interviews lead to the house of "Jack Gordon," who Starling soon realizes is actually Jame Gumb, and pursues Gumb deep into his multi-room basement, where she discovers a screaming Catherine Martin in a dry well just before the lights in the basement go out, leaving her in complete darkness. Gumb stalks Starling in the dark with night vision goggles and prepares to shoot her when Starling, hearing the sounds of his revolver, spins and fires into the darkness, killing Gumb.

Days later at the FBI Academy graduation party, Starling receives a phone call from Hannibal Lecter who is at an airport in Jamaica. Lecter assures Starling he has no plans to pursue her and asks her to show him the same courtesy. He then excuses himself, remarking that he's "having an old friend for dinner". He hangs up the phone and casually follows Dr. Chilton through the village.
Source: Wikipedia

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The Silence of the Lambs (Trailer)



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