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The Silence of the Lambs (1991) | List of Shame

Psychological thrillers are still one of my favourite genres, and The Silence of the Lambs went right to the top of my favourite films. It was nothing like I expected though. I thought that they would still be trying to catch Hannibal, and not using him to better comprehend another killer, one of his patients. But seeing him already in prison doesn’t diminish in any way the frightening aspect of it all. 

In fact, it provides the opportunity to enhance it – and they didn’t miss it, in the so skilfully written and performed conversations between Hannibal and Clarice. With each interaction between the two characters, Hannibal‘s twisted mind is gradually unveiled, and what is truly disturbing is not his madness, or perversity, but his state of utter calm, and most of all, his intelligence – for that is the highest element of danger. 

It’s a genius game: Clarice turns to him, trying to get the information for another case; and Hannibal, being a former psychiatrist and undoubtedly clever, traces her psychological profile, through subtile manipulations. As he presents himself unsettlingly balanced and educated, and gets closer to her, through his machinations, the most peculiar relationship is formed when affection arises. A very tricky subject that requires the utmost care. And this is where Jodie Foster steps in.

I doubt that I have ever seen a more splendidly nuanced performance by a woman – she plays the tough/insecure paradox with such mastery, it’s unbelievable. And together with Anthony Hopkins, they make the absolute best of those scenes. Anyone who has seen Hopkins portray Hannibal can never look at him without being taken back to this performance. His wavering speech rhythm, the accentuated pronunciation of the s sounds, that hiss, are so haunting that when you hear it again ten years later in the sequel (or in my case, the prequel), you immediately identify it.
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