The Silence of the Lambs (film)

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The Silence of the Lambs
The Silence of the Lambs poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJonathan Demme
Produced byKenneth Utt
Edward Saxon
Ron Bozman
Screenplay byTed Tally
Based onThe Silence of the Lambs 
by Thomas Harris
StarringJodie Foster
Anthony Hopkins
Scott Glenn
Music byHoward Shore
CinematographyTak Fujimoto
Editing byCraig McKay
Distributed byOrion Pictures
Release dates
  • February 14, 1991 (1991-02-14)
Running time118 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$19 million[2]
Box office$272,742,922[2]
 
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The Silence of the Lambs
The Silence of the Lambs poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJonathan Demme
Produced byKenneth Utt
Edward Saxon
Ron Bozman
Screenplay byTed Tally
Based onThe Silence of the Lambs 
by Thomas Harris
StarringJodie Foster
Anthony Hopkins
Scott Glenn
Music byHoward Shore
CinematographyTak Fujimoto
Editing byCraig McKay
Distributed byOrion Pictures
Release dates
  • February 14, 1991 (1991-02-14)
Running time118 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$19 million[2]
Box office$272,742,922[2]

The Silence of the Lambs is a 1991 American thriller film that blends elements of the crime and horror genres.[3] Directed by Jonathan Demme and starring Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, Ted Levine, and Scott Glenn, the film is based on Thomas Harris' 1988 novel of the same name, his second to feature Hannibal Lecter, a brilliant psychiatrist and cannibalistic serial killer.

In the film, Clarice Starling, a young U.S. FBI trainee, seeks the advice of the imprisoned Dr. Lecter to apprehend another serial killer, known only as "Buffalo Bill".

The Silence of the Lambs was released on February 14, 1991, and grossed $272.7 million worldwide against its $19 million budget. It was only the third film, the other two being It Happened One Night and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, to win Academy Awards in all the top five categories: Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director, and Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay). It is also the first Best Picture winner widely considered to be a horror film, and only the second such film to be nominated in the category, after The Exorcist in 1973.[4][5] The film is considered "culturally, historically or aesthetically" significant by the U.S. Library of Congress and was selected to be preserved in the National Film Registry in 2011.[6]

Plot

Clarice Starling is pulled from her training at the FBI Academy at Quantico, Virginia by Jack Crawford of the Bureau's Behavioral Science Unit. He tasks her with interviewing Hannibal Lecter, a former psychiatrist and incarcerated cannibalistic serial killer, believing Lecter's insight might be useful in the pursuit of a serial killer nicknamed "Buffalo Bill", who skins his female victims' corpses.

Starling travels to the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane, where she is led by Frederick Chilton to Lecter's solitary quarters. Although initially pleasant and courteous, Lecter grows impatient with Starling's attempts at "dissecting" him and rebuffs her. As she is leaving, one of the prisoners flicks semen at her. Lecter, who considers this act "unspeakably ugly", calls Starling back and tells her to seek out an old patient of his. This leads her to a storage shed where she discovers a man's severed head. She returns to Lecter, who tells her that the man is linked to Buffalo Bill. He offers to profile Buffalo Bill on the condition that he be transferred away from Chilton, whom he detests.

When Buffalo Bill kidnaps a U.S. Senator's daughter, Catherine Martin, Crawford authorizes Starling to offer Lecter a fake deal promising a prison transfer if he provides information that helps find Buffalo Bill and rescue the abductee. Instead, Lecter begins a game of quid pro quo with Starling, offering comprehensive clues and insights about Buffalo Bill if Starling will give him information about her own past, something she was advised not to do. Chilton secretly records the conversation and reveals Starling's deal as a sham before offering to transfer Lecter in exchange for a deal of Chilton's own making. Lecter agrees and is flown to Memphis, Tennessee, where he reveals personal information on Buffalo Bill to federal agents.

As the manhunt begins, Starling visits Lecter at his special cell in a Tennessee courthouse and confronts him with her decryption of the name he provided ("Louis Friend", an anagram of "iron sulfide", also known as fool's gold). Lecter refuses Starling's pleas for the truth and forces her to recount her traumatic childhood. She tells him how she was orphaned and relocated to a relative's farm in Montana, where she discovered a lamb slaughterhouse and even made a failed attempt to rescue one of them. Lecter gives her back the case files on Buffalo Bill after their conversation is interrupted by Chilton and the police who escort her from the building. Later that evening, Lecter kills his guards, escapes from his cell and disappears.

Starling analyzes Lecter's annotations to the case files and realizes that Buffalo Bill knew his first victim personally. Starling travels to the victim's hometown and discovers that Buffalo Bill was a tailor, with dresses and dress patterns identical to the patches of skin removed from each of his victims. She telephones Crawford to inform him that Buffalo Bill is trying to fashion a "woman suit" of real skin, but Crawford is already en route to make an arrest, having cross-referenced Lecter's notes with hospital archives and finding a man named Jame Gumb, who once applied unsuccessfully for a sex-change operation. Starling continues interviewing friends of Buffalo Bill's first victim in Ohio while Crawford leads an F.B.I. tactical team to Gumb's address in Illinois. The house in Illinois is empty and Starling is led to the house of "Jack Gordon", who she realizes is actually Jame Gumb. She pursues him into his multi-room basement, where she discovers that Catherine is still alive, but trapped in a dry well. After turning off the basement lights, Gumb stalks Starling in the dark with night-vision goggles but gives his position away when he cocks his revolver; Starling turns around just in time and kills him.

Some time later at her FBI Academy graduation party, Starling receives a phone call from Lecter, who is at an airport in Bimini. He assures her that he does not plan to pursue her and asks her to return the favor, which she says she cannot do. Lecter then hangs up the phone, saying that he is "having an old friend for dinner" and begins following a newly arrived Chilton before disappearing into the crowd.

Cast

Production

Casting

The role of Dr. Hannibal Lecter was originally to be played by Gene Hackman, who also wished to direct; but he later withdrew from the project owing to the evolving screenplay's graphic content.[7] Michelle Pfeiffer was offered the role of Clarice Starling, but turned it down, later saying, "(It was) a difficult decision, but I got nervous about the subject matter".[8]

Filming

The Silence of the Lambs was filmed primarily in and around Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with some scenes in nearby northern West Virginia.[9] The exterior of the Western Center near Canonsburg, Pennsylvania served as the setting for Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane.

The film was distributed by Orion Pictures.

Release

The Silence of the Lambs was released on February 14, 1991, grossing $13,766,814 during its opening weekend. Surpassing its own budget after one week, the film proved to be a major box office success. At the time it closed on October 10, 1991, the film grossed $130,742,922 domestically with a total worldwide gross of $272,742,922.[2] The film was the fourth highest-grossing film of 1991.[10]

Critical reception

Hopkins, Foster, and Levine garnered much acclaim for their performances. Critics were particularly impressed with Hopkins' performance, even though Hopkins' screen time is only a little more than 16 minutes.[11]

The Silence of the Lambs was a sleeper hit that gradually gained widespread success[12] and critical acclaim; Rotten Tomatoes records that The Silence of the Lambs received a 96% "fresh" rating.[13] Roger Ebert specifically mentioned the "terrifying qualities" of Hannibal Lecter,[14] and later recognized the film as a "horror masterpiece", alongside such classics as Nosferatu, Psycho, and Halloween.[15] However, the film is also notable for being one of two multi-Academy Award winners disapproved of by Ebert's colleague, Gene Siskel, the other being Unforgiven.[16]

Accolades

Academy Awards record
Best Picture, Edward Saxon, Kenneth Utt, Ronald M. Bozman
Best Director, Jonathan Demme
Best Actor, Anthony Hopkins
Best Actress, Jodie Foster
Best Adapted Screenplay, Ted Tally
Golden Globe Awards record
Best Actress, Jodie Foster
British Academy Film Awards record
Best Actor, Anthony Hopkins
Best Actress, Jodie Foster

The film won the Big Five Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Director (Demme), Best Actor (Hopkins), Best Actress (Foster), and Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay) (Ted Tally), making it only the third film in history to accomplish that feat. It was also nominated for Best Sound Mixing (Tom Fleischman and Christopher Newman) and Best Film Editing, but lost to Terminator 2: Judgment Day and JFK, respectively.[17]

Other awards include being named Best Film by the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures, CHI Awards and PEO Awards. Demme won the Silver Bear for Best Director at the 41st Berlin International Film Festival[18] and was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Director. The film was nominated for the prestigious Grand Prix of the Belgian Film Critics Association. It was also nominated for the British Academy Film Award for Best Film. Screenwriter Ted Tally received an Edgar Award for Best Motion Picture Screenplay. The film was awarded Best Horror Film of the Year during the 2nd Horror Hall of Fame telecast, with Vincent Price presenting the award to the film's executive producer Gary Goetzman.[19]

In 1998, the film was listed as one of the 100 greatest films in the past 100 years by the American Film Institute.[20] In 2006, at the Key Art Awards, the original poster for The Silence of the Lambs was named best film poster "of the past 35 years".[21]

The Silence of the Lambs placed seventh on Bravo's The 100 Scariest Movie Moments for Lecter's escape scene. The American Film Institute named Hannibal Lecter (as portrayed by Hopkins) the number one film villain of all time[22] and Clarice Starling (as portrayed by Foster) the sixth greatest film hero of all time.[22]

In 2011, ABC aired a prime-time special, Best in Film: The Greatest Movies of Our Time, that counted down the best films chosen by fans based on results of a poll conducted by ABC and People magazine. The Silence of the Lambs was selected as the No. 1 Best Suspense/Thriller and Dr. Hannibal Lecter was selected as the No. 4 Greatest Film Character.

The film and its characters have appeared in the following AFI "100 Years" lists:

Accusations of homophobia and sexism

Upon its release, The Silence of the Lambs was criticized by members of the LGBT community for its portrayal of Buffalo Bill as bisexual and transsexual. In response to the critiques, Demme replied that Buffalo Bill "wasn't a gay character. He was a tormented man who hated himself and wished he was a woman because that would have made him as far away from himself as he possibly could be." Demme added that he "came to realize that there is a tremendous absence of positive gay characters in movies."[23]

In a 1992 interview with Playboy magazine, notable feminist and women's rights advocate Betty Friedan stated, "I thought it was absolutely outrageous that The Silence of the Lambs won four [sic] Oscars. [...] I'm not saying that the movie shouldn't have been shown. I'm not denying the movie was an artistic triumph, but it was about the evisceration, the skinning alive of women. That is what I find offensive. Not the Playboy centerfold."[24]

See also

References

  1. ^ "THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS (18)". Rank Film Distributors. British Board of Film Classification. January 8, 1991. Retrieved September 20, 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c "The Silence of the Lambs". Box Office Mojo. 
  3. ^ Matt Zoller Seitz (2010-09-10). "Trash-talking nine classic movies: "The Silence of the Lambs"". Salon. Retrieved 2012-11-26. 
  4. ^ "Academy Awards Best Pictures - Genre Biases". Filmsite.org. Retrieved 2012-06-05. 
  5. ^ "An Introduction to the American Horror Film". Mendeley. Retrieved 2012-06-05. 
  6. ^ "Silence of the Lambs added to U.S. film archive". BBC. 28 December 2011. Retrieved 28 December 2011. 
  7. ^ Kapsis, Robert, E., ed. Jonathan Demme: Interviews (Conversations with Filmmakers Series). Jackson, Mississippi: University of Mississippi, 2009, p. 72-73. ISBN 1-60473-118-4
  8. ^ The Barbara Walters Special, American Broadcast Company, 1992
  9. ^ "City lands good share of movies". The Vindicator. 10 December 1995. Retrieved 30 December 2011. 
  10. ^ "1991 Yearly Box Office Results". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved September 21, 2012. 
  11. ^ "Oscar fast facts". Retrieved 4 February 2010. 
  12. ^ Collins, Jim (1992). Film Theory Goes to the Movies. Routledge. p. 35. ISBN 0-415-90576-1. 
  13. ^ "Rotten Tomatoes". 
  14. ^ Roger Ebert, The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
  15. ^ Roger Ebert, The Silence of the Lambs (2001)
  16. ^ "The Silence of the Lambs Reviews, Ratings, Credits, and More". Metacritic. Retrieved 2012-06-05. 
  17. ^ "The 64th Academy Awards (1992) Nominees and Winners". oscars.org. Retrieved 2011-10-22. 
  18. ^ "Berlinale: 1991 Prize Winners". berlinale.de. Retrieved 2011-03-26. 
  19. ^ 2nd Annual Horror Hall of Fame Telecast, 1991
  20. ^ AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movies Accessed 14 March 2007. Archived March 5, 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  21. ^ "'Sin City' place to be at Key Art Awards". The Hollywood Reporter. 9 October 2006. Retrieved 7 October 2007
  22. ^ a b AFI 100 Years...100 Heroes & Villains Accessed 14 March 2007. Archived March 12, 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  23. ^ Schmalz, Jeffrey (28 February 1993). "From Visions of Paradise to Hell on Earth". The New York Times. 
  24. ^ Interview of Friedan by David Sheff Playboy September 1992, pp. 51-54, 56, 58, 60, 62, 149; reprinted in full in Interviews with Betty Friedan, Janann Sherman, ed. Univ. Press of Mississippi, 2002, ISBN 1-57806-480-5.

External links