Good evening Clarice…
The best of the best of the serial killer genre, and a most welcome name to come across on the 101 Horror Movies list, as well as one of The Mind Reels’ co-creator Sue Maynard’s favorite movies.
I saw this Best Picture film no less than 5 times in the theater (coincidence that it won that many Oscars…?), and each time it was a brilliant experience, I’ve read the novels, but there’s something about Jonathan Demme’s (who won Best Director) film that completely engrosses me each and every time I watch it.
On countless occasions throughout the film we are put directly into Clarice Starling’s (Jodie Foster – who won the Best Actress Oscar) shoes, as the camera angle is her point of view. Characters speak from the screen right to us, warning of us of the dangers that Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins – who won a Best Actor Oscar for his performance) or just to watch Clarice.
Clarice is a young, smart, ambitious agent in training when she’s recruited by Director Jack Crawford (the amazing Scott Glenn – who I feel does not do enough work, I think I would cast him in just about everything!) to approach the institutionalized Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lecter to get his insight on a serial killer known only as Buffalo Bill (Ted Levine in a truly chilling performance).
The two trade information, quid pro quo, so that Clarice can hunt down Bill, but all the while revealing more of herself to the brilliant doctor.
Anthony Heald plays Chilton the head of the institution, who seems to be a bit of a showman, in that he wants to be the center of attention in the media storm springing up around Bill and Lecter, he’s smarmy, and Lecter gets his revenge on him.
The scenes between Hopkins and Foster are the standouts in an amazing film, the two of them together are incredible to watch, and there is so much going on there underneath the dialogue, it’s absolutely captivating.
The film is smart, well thought out, everything about the film seems to verge on the perfect. This is an amazing film, and one tends to forget how brilliant it is.
This is the first time I’ve actually watched it in about 5 years, and I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen.
I still love the bait and switch at the end of the film with the door buzzer gag. So good. I remember the first time I saw that in the theater, and when Bill opens the door to reveal Clarice, all I could think was “Oh, crap. The Bureau has no idea where Bill or Clarice actually are. This is gonna be bad.”
The sequence with Bill stalking Clarice through the house while he watches her with night vision goggles is such a brilliant and truly frightening sequence, Jodie’s panicked breathing, her reaching, exploring hand, and shaking gun, knowing Bill’s right there… So terrifying. The building tension added by an exemplary score by Howard Shore still puts me on edge.
Clarice isn’t a seasoned agent, she’s young, she’s a student, so when she goes after Bill, you can tell she’s scared, and Jodie makes you feel that fear. This is probably my favorite role of hers, my other is Contact just because I love that film so much. She’s smart, trained, but still inexperienced, and she knows she’s going up against a human monster… I can’t blame her for being scared. She’s more gutsy than I would be in a similar scenario.
Hopkins is perfectly chilling in this film, playing Lecter with a dignified reserve, an icy coldness, all the while you’re aware that he would just as soon talk to you, as long as you interested him, as kill and eat you. Hopkins gives us the perfect portrayal of a brilliant psychopath, and it is truly frightening, the human monster.
If you haven’t seen it in a while, take the time to check it out again. And if you’ve never seen it, you owe it to yourself! Yes, some of the lines may seem clichéd now, having found their way into the pop culture lexicon, but when you hear them in context, their vitality returns and the film still scares.