Release Date: February 14 1991
Runtime: 1 hour 58 minutes
Director: Jonathan Demme
Stars: Anthony Hopkins, Jodie Foster
Based on Novel by Thomas Harris
Rewatched: December 21, 2013
This crime/thriller really knows how to get under people’s skin…so to speak. Based on the novel by Thomas Harris with the same name, it follows Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) a FBI academy student on her quest to find a serial killer known as Buffalo Bill, who skins his victims. She seeks the counsel of a psychiatrist, Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) who is equally if not more terrifying than Buffalo Bill. Lecter himself is also a serial killer known as, Hannibal the Cannibal who has been detained within Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane.
The film in my opinion is really built upon Anthony Hopkins’ performance as Lecter though only on screen for around 15 mins. The subtle but compelling performance really brings the creepy and the uncomfortable feel out of the film. Filming locations was another contributing aspect to set the scene and make the audience feel extremely ill at ease. In the scene where Starling first meets Lecter the grungy backdrop of the rundown and dirty brick walls of the isolation ward feel like a medieval prison cell with touches of modern day (ie. glass walls). With other “patients” hollering obscenities and Starling looking some what distressed this really cements the same feelings within the audience.
The camera work is amazing in this film. A-Ma-Zing! There is a lot of POV work where the camera is used to make the audience feel like they are in the scene. There is an establishing shot of whose eyes were a seeing through, more often than not it was through Starling’s POV but not always which made it a real treasure to watch. Instead of over the shoulder shots where the audience feels like a fly on the wall, there is a breakdown of the “fourth or fifth wall” and the actors would speak directly to the camera as if we were a character in the film. I really enjoyed this technique because it felt that I was also being put on the case of Buffalo Bill and getting the details.
Overall this movie has been one of my favourite thrillers, some could say horror films. I’m not really one for too intense films or ones with gruesome elements but his film doesn’t really have that. Yes there are intense scenes but they aren’t over the top unwatchable like in some other films. The music was well done by, Howard Shore. I think this film is the best out of the tetralogy of this series. The brilliant performance of Hopkins makes you terrified of Lecter and yet so intrigued that you aren’t so overly disturbed by his actions. Jodie Foster does a great job as the novice but determined and ambitious Agent Starling that you come to care for her well being as you build a connection to her through the development of the case as both the audience and her character try to solve the case.