Having an Old Friend for Dinner

Based on the novel of the same name authored by Thomas Harris, the 1991 movie The Silence of the Lambs is still one of the best suspense movies ever made. Directed by Jonathan Demme, the movie stars Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins in major roles. The movie is a landmark as it won 5 major Academy Awards- Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Actor and Best Actress.

It is the third movie after It Happened One Night and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest to win the big five of the Oscars. Anthony Hopkins’ performance as Dr. Hanibal Lecter is memorable. Though his appearance in the movie is not more than sixteen minutes, yet he won the Oscar for his breakthrough performance which sends chills down one’s spine.

Without a doubt, The Silence of the Lambs is one of the best movies of the 1990s, and is a viable contender for the best horror film or thriller ever made. Screenwriter Ted Tally did an amazing job in adapting it for the screen. The story revolves around a FBI trainee Clarice Starling who seeks the help of the brilliant psychiatrist and cannibal serial killer Dr. Hannibal Lecter to trace the infamous Buffalo Bill who is abducting women and leaves their disfigured dead bodies over the state in rivers.

Jodie Foster absolutely stands out as Clarice Starling. The reason why I was enraptured by her performance was by her ease to express herself. The fact that you see her sweat with fear, yet living up to her demeanor as a FBI agent she tries to hide it is phenomenal. Her character which has been ranked as one of the best all time screen heroes is a true hero as it shows what lies beneath all the machoism of a true hero is a past and fear. Clarice’s fear is evident too. But Jodie Foster gives an unnerving performance as the determined Clarice Starling.

Coming to Anthony Hopkins, I actually have no words! When Clarice is assigned to meet Lecter she is told, “You’re to tell him nothing personal, Starling. Believe me; you don’t want Hannibal Lecter inside your head.” Well the viewer does leave the movie with Lecter inside his head thanks to Anthony Hopkins’ perfect portrayal of Hannibal Lecter which has become his most identifiable screen performance. The character which makes a second appearance in this novel of Thomas Harris is a legend in itself and Hopkins’ portrayal has made it the best villainous characters of all time indeed. The way he says the most shocking dialogues without flinching also shakes the viewer! Hopkins claimed that he drew inspiration for Lecter’s voice from HAL-9000, the homicidal computer from Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. Whatever may be the inspiration it is a voice which makes the viewer flinch once at least. Well it truly does it for his neighboring cellmate whom he instigates to commit suicide! Even when the movie ends with Lecter giving a call to Clarice, his words thrill the viewer when he says, “I do wish we could chat longer, but I’m having an old friend for dinner.”

If we talk about Ted Levine as Buffalo Bill, the actor has truly done a great job as the psychotic patient of Lecter and later a serial killer. His madness to change into a woman by making a body suit out of skin; his love for his dog and the fact that he addresses his victims as ‘it’ is scary for Clarice and the victims as well as the viewer.

Talking about the screenplay, the movie has no loose ends. It is a masterpiece skillfully crafted for fan of thriller movies. The movie always keeps you on the edge with its perfect timing and precision. The interactions between Clarice and Lecter are impactful. Trust me, if you watch the movie, you will be haunted with Anthony Hopkins calling FBI agent as “Clarice” for a long time. The movie’s climax is highly gripping. As Hannibal says once in the movie, “All good things to those who wait.” Indeed it is like a dessert to a perfectly polished thriller.

I think The Silence of the Lambs is not a movie to be missed. It is one of those movies which come once in a few decades. Unlike other thrillers where you can easily foretell what is going to happen next this one leaves you anticipating what is going to happen next. And for my Hindi movie fans, the Preity Zinta, Akshay Kumar and Ashutosh Rana starring movie Sangharsh is a good movie badly inspired from this masterpiece…

Aayushi Uberoi

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