Have you ever watched a movie that stayed with you? Maybe the performances were electrifying. Maybe the story struck a chord with you. For whatever reason, in your mind, the movie stands out. Jonathan Demme’s “Silence of The Lambs” (based upon the novel of the same name by Thomas Harris) is one of those movies for me. I first watched this film when I was in college and I was curious about all the accolades the movie had received when it was released in 1991. The film was a major popular and critical success. It made a lot of money at the box office and it hauled in Best Picture, Actor, Actress, Director, and Adapted Screenplay Oscars. So does this movie, twenty years after its acclaimed release, still pack a punch? Should it really stand with the greatest films and be considered a classic?
Should this film be considered a classic? Let me say this first. This film has a reputation for being especially gruesome. It is most certainly disturbing. That said, I think a lot of the reputation comes from the more recent films in the Hannibal Lecter series and gets applied retroactively to this film. A lot of the violence in this film is implied or largely unseen due to the incredible cinematography work by Tak Fugimoto (Sixth Sense, Signs, John Adams miniseries). I think that is one of the reasons this film rises above the pack of the thriller/horror genre. It frightens you more through watching the cold, brutal, and heartless performance of Anthony Hopkins than it does when it shows the results of his twisted mind and actions. There are large portions of the film that consist of conversations between the Lecter and Starling characters. These scenes don’t have much in the way of action, but the tension the film creates in these scenes is very intense. This is a defining role for Hopkins. He becomes Hannibal Lecter. The extreme closeups that Fujimoto employs often when Lecter speaks allow the viewer look directly into the eyes of Hopkins as he delivers his lines and there are times when I watched it that I had to remind myself I was watching an actor! Yes, Hopkins is that good in this film. So yes, this is definitely a classic. The acting and production values are top notch. The performances of Hopkins and Foster are outstanding and make this film one that will stick with you for a long time.
Would I own this film? I don’t think so. That is not a reflection on the quality of the film. Rather it is a reflection on how intense the movie is. It’s one of those films that is so powerful and memorable that I probably only need to revisit it once every five years or so. Also, I have to say that the Blu-Ray release of this movie is top notch. Picture quality and audio quality are great. There are some great extra features that are worth checking out as well. If you are looking for an intense thriller that packs a punch, this one is worth a watch. It’s also worth seeing to watch a great actor (Hopkins) at the top of his game. One word of advice, make sure you put the kids to bed before you watch this one. Oh, and you might want to leave a light on too.