I’m watching The Silence of the Lambs, which is one of two films I’ve been compelled to ‘binge-view’ (as in ‘I just watched this film, and now I’m going to watch it again in its entirety”). In the past I thought I just really liked the film. I’m a bit older now, and find myself trying to pick through those movies and other entertainment experiences that have thoroughly stuck with me – all because I’m currently trying to write something entertaining and ‘brain sticky’, to coin a term.
SO WHY SILENCE OF THE LAMBS?
The film was released when I was 10, and I clearly remember reading a Newsweek article detailing the fact that this hypnotic, extraordinarily violent film had both 1) grossed out most of the viewing public, and 2) thoroughly cleaned up at the Oscars. Neat, I thought. But what I really remember about the article is a very small photo of Anthony Hopkins looking right at the camera with blood all over his face. Wearing a plain (albeit blood splattered) white t-shirt, his arm is held high, ready to strike the viewer with a club.
I had grown up hearing Tony Hopkins name because my parents had visited New York City in the 70′s and had seen Hopkins perform in the Broadway play Equus. In that play, which I understand involves horses, Mr. Hopkins is a psychiatrist. The Newsweek article didn’t mention Equus. BUT here he was again 15 or so years later playing another psychiatrist. AND while the film was obstinately about violent crime and police work, what the character of Hannibal Lector was after was really just… psychology. He spent the better half of the film cajoling Clarice Starling into divulging her deepest, most painful memory because seeing people from that particular perspective was what attracted him to psychology in the first place. He wants to see people for who they are. And if he can’t have that, he’ll eat your face.
Maybe because of all the face-eating involved, I had to work at convincing my folks to allow me to read The Silence of the Lambs novel when I was 14. It would be another year after that before I was allowed to rent the VHS tape (that would have been 1995, four years after it was released). That was the first time I watched it marathon-style, and the trend continues today. And the more I see it, the more I’m utterly horrified by it’s Venus-fly trap ability to use social mores to bring you, unblinking and uncertain, into the physical space typically occupied by the protagonist. That is to say, we are Clarice Starling. All because the characters stare direclty into the camera, which is calming in some scenes, and incredibly unsettling in others. So for now I think that’s why I really like the film; the eye contact. Also the music’s okay.