I have written elsewhere that The Silence of the Lambs, for which director Jonathan Demme won an Oscar, is a vampire movie in disguise—a remark to which I will now add: but with all the fun sucked out. A preposterous thing that generates no thrills and is deeply offensive on the score of its misogynism, it is one of those movies for people who hate movies or who hate women—or who hate men, for that matter. It is long, plodding and sickeningly over-the-top.
The premise is inviting: an F.B.I. agent’s attempt to penetrate the mind of a captured psychopath, a serial killer. But the film for whatever reason(s) posits and then drops this possibility, having the two characters instead engage in periodic cat-and-mouse games that conform to purely external behaviors and routine police detection. Clarice Starling is never given a chance to discover her inner Hannibal Lecter.
This anti-feminist film slides into rank sentimentality. Clarice, ineptly played by Jodie Foster, isn’t permitted to be a competent female professional. Instead, she is a crybaby, constantly on the verge of tears (if she were this unstable, would she really have progressed to her position?), and her invisible partner is serendipity, because one coincidence after another rather than her own initiative or insight helps get her work done on the case. Anthony Hopkins is even worse as “Hannibal the Cannibal.” Hopkins isn’t interested in exploring either evil or profound psychosis; all he does is put on a campy show. Both Foster and Hopkins won Oscars.
Demme resolves his narrative material dementedly, heartlessly generating approval for Lecter’s escape from the law into the crowd. In effect, Demme applauds mass murder; this boggles the historical mind.
One wonders how certain commercial filmmakers live with themselves.
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