Silence of the Lambs (1991) and the Screaming of the Lambs Moment

The One-Line Summary: When a brutal serial killer is skinning victims, and the daughter of a prominent woman goes missing, F.B.I. cadet Clarice Starling (Jody Foster) is put on the case to speak with imprisoned Dr.Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lecter (Anthony Hopkins), a supremely intelligent psychopath who she hopes will give her insight into catching the murderer and saving the girl, though his cat and mouse games tests the gifted agent at every dangerous turn.

The Two-Line Blurb: Directed by Jonathon Demme, this film adaptation of the Thomas Harris novel of the same name is a mostly smart and convincing psychological thriller that features some terrific performances from the leads, though the supporting cast is their equal with Scott Glenn as the F.B.I. special agent in charge and Ted Levine as Francis Gum (aka Buffalo Bill). A tense investigative film that has sharp dialog and a unique relationship between Starling and Lecter, the film ultimately doesn’t trust the audience to stay on target and instead divulges into a standard girl in the dark, jump scare movie that feels not only forced but wholly out of line with the reality of the rest of the film, yanking us out of the gripping authenticity it so wonderfully built up.

The Three-Line Set-up: This moment is all about the consequences of trust between Starling and Lecter and begins when she makes a deal with the killer to have him moved to a “better” facility if he can provide legitimate help in finding the missing girl. Playing a game of quid pro quo, he gives her information that proves worthless, so she visits him in the interim jail cell before he is shipped to his new prison, hoping to get him to confess what he’s learned from the files on Buffalo Bill. He toys with her intellect, and tells her to ask simpler questions about the man she seeks, but refuses to inform too much until she answers some questions of his own.

The Four-Line Moment: He asks her to continue a story she began earlier about her childhood, after her father was murdered and her living with relatives on a farm. She recounts waking up to the sound of spring lambs being slaughtered and that she tried to save one lamb but couldn’t and now the screaming is what haunts her dreams, which delights Lecter, where he posits that she is hoping that saving the missing girl will at last silence the lambs. This seems to please the killer and with that knowledge, he’s able to move forward with their deal. The moment is crucial in the disturbing relationship between Starling and Lecter, forming a bond that frees her of any concern when the inevitable occurs, and gives her enough insight on the case files to make the next step in trying locating the girl.

The Five-Word Review: Great performances make this worthy.

Clip courtesy Movieclips

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Director:

Jonathan Demme

Writers:

Thomas Harris (novel), Ted Tally (screenplay)

Stars:

Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, Lawrence A. Bonney

 

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