The Silence of the Lambs

118 mins
★★★★★ ★★★★★ by 6 Users
An accomplished, effective, grisly, and exceptionally sick slasher film (1991) that I can't with any conscience recommend, because the purposes to which it places its considerable ingenuity are ultimately rather foul. Like Thomas Harris's novel, which screenwriter Ted Tally adapts here, Jonathan Demme's film proposes that the psychotic serial killer is the essential religious figure of our time: saint, guru, seer, and soothsayer rolled into one. In fact, this characterization applies literally to only one of the two serial killers here, a psychiatrist (Anthony Hopkins) who cannibalizes his victims and is now held in maximum security. The heroine (Jodie Foster), an FBI trainee, appeals to him for insight in tracking down another mad killer (Ted Levine), who flays his victims (and is a transvestite to boot, allowing Demme to cash in on the homophobia market). In the course of parceling out his wisdom, the psychiatrist also analyzes the trainee, becoming an even more commanding father figure to her than the boss (Scott Glenn) who sends her on this mission. The radical premise that our society implicitly worships as well as fears serial killers underlies the queasy impact of this gory thriller without becoming its overriding thesis, and while Demme has said that this story takes “some really good pokes at patriarchy,” this is mainly wishful thinking. The film, like its flesh-eating psycho, is more bent on exploiting its insights than on teaching us anything. Like all other slasher movies from Psycho on, this one “works” insofar as it plays on the desire to see victims, preferably women, get torn to pieces. Not even the best performances and direction—and this movie has talent to spare—can justify the putridity of the enterprise. For creepy, sicko kicks, I'd rather watch the evening news.

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Reviews / Comments (8)

Showing 1-8 of 8

To suggest that there are crude stereotypes going on in this film is to really fail to understand the context, grotesque as it is. The mad killer is one of the most believable characters of this kind in the history of film. For me, the allegories are subtle and effective, and the film is visually stunning. It's not a feel-good movie, but it's a very respectable and honest look at a part of our human nature. Also, it doesn't glorify all serial killers, just Hannibal Lectar, though he is an almost supernatural figure, so I cannot bring myself to take exception with it.

report 15 likes, 1 dislike   
Posted by wcb987 on 12/16/2011 at 11:14 PM
★★★★★ ★★★★★

This movie hardly classifies as a "slasher film," considering its lack of slashing. While the film is, without a doubt, mind-bendingly horrifying and could easily be classified as a thriller, the gore is hardly evident in comparison to the culminating moments of suspense. In fact the movie instilled a fear in the viewers which would have otherwise eluded them had they watched the evening news. If anything, a movie like this should make the news more real –– The film was so believable that it could challenge naivety. Anthony Hopkins performance was a groundbreaking, historical triumph smartly glorified by Jonathan Demme.

I suppose there always has to be that one critic who feels the need to swim against the current and vote nay –– Unfortunately Mr. Rosenbaum was unable to present a reasonable argument.

report 17 likes, 6 dislikes   
Posted by Critic Critic on 03/04/2010 at 1:30 PM
★★★★★ ★★★★★

A landmark film, superb in all respects, universally acclaimed and lauded. I'm afraid your critic must have some kind of personal chip on his shoulder against this picture, very odd indeed.

report 14 likes, 5 dislikes   
Posted by MovieGoer on 12/31/2009 at 10:49 PM
★★★★★ ★★★★★

Hopkins' Lecter IS a guru and a seer. That's the point of the whole film (and Starling's self-discovery). He's a human anomaly. He might serve your pureed organs over pasta but would never spit in your face. A killer who, if not incarcerated, would be consulted by police as to how to catch other killers. Crazy from his own genious and way smarter than his captors, not to mention most of the population.
Starling knows not to volunteer any personal info but Lecter's too slick for that, playing off her ambitions and eventually grows to admire and even love her.
As for violence, very little is actually shown. It requires an audience to fill in their own blanks which is much more terrifying and, in my opinion, less insulting.
And why are critics always talking about films glorifying violence? Did you feel particularly inspired to eat someone's flesh when you were done watching this? I'm guessing not. These films are fiction. That's their job - to entertain. If people don't like it, they're more than entitled to their opinion but please give the rest of us a little credit.

report 10 likes, 1 dislike   
Posted by Serpico on 04/14/2012 at 7:51 AM

Rosenbaum says that "The film, like its flesh-eating psycho, is more bent on exploiting its insights than on teaching us anything." You see, our society is thoroughly inadequate with providing us with learning opportunities; do you realize our university resources, libraries, books, or magazines are insignificant? if not for the staid, dark movie theater to teach us, what chance do we have to gain the insights that Rosenboum displays here? In Hollywoo movies we have seen charactors, actually teachers in various disguises, come and show and tell us about life's truths, like my kindergarden teachers used to do. But, unfortunately in this movie, as Rosenbaum says "...that the psychotic serial killer is the essential religious figure of our time: saint, guru, seer, and soothsayer rolled into one." Wow, what a bitrayal.

report 4 likes, 0 dislikes   
Posted by trader1 on 02/03/2011 at 9:53 AM
★★★★★ ★★★★★

You are the worst reviewer I have ever seen I feel like you give the best rated movies the worst ratings in an attempt to distinguish yourself and garner attention. I was looking at rotten tomatoes and I saw that the movie Big had only 2 negative reviews, and I accurately predicted that you would be one of them. Get another job

report 0 likes, 2 dislikes   
Posted by steve on 09/02/2013 at 4:17 AM
★★★★★ ★★★★★

dude, this critic is a moron who loves the sound of his own words and voice. his "insights" get filed under"trying way too hard" . all master screenwriters conclude this is an amazing screenplay. and a wonderful film.

this critic couldn't write a movie 1/2 this good. its like a 2nd string basketball player from a crappy college giving his worthless opinion on how kobe bryant's game.

report 2 likes, 2 dislikes   
Posted by daneil on 03/11/2013 at 10:15 PM
★★★★★ ★★★★★

I enjoyed reading Jonathan Rosenbaum's review of Silence of the Lambs because like him, I was one of the few who didn't care for the movie. Upon first viewing I was angry that the film made a hero out of a serial killer. Also, I'm willing to suspend disbelief on some things, but why would they send in a rookie to interview a criminal mastermind? Duh. Also, I have worked in a jail and rule #1 is you don't give out personal information. Of course, if the heroine doesn't violate this rule there goes the movie, but still. Both "Psycho" and "Silence" are in debt to Ed Gein, the Wisconsin murderer who made clothing out of female body parts. But unlike Hannibal Lecter, Norman Bates is not an evil superhero mastermind, just a sad loser like Gein. We are fascinated by such deviance, but why turn it into hero worship?

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Posted by KayakAngler on 12/18/2011 at 1:11 AM
Showing 1-8 of 8

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