The Silence Of The Lambs (1991) – Film Review

The Silence Of The Lambs

Director: Jonathan Demme
Cast: Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, Scott Glenn
Certificate: 18

By Sarah Morgan

Quick trivia question for you – which three films have won the ‘big five’ Oscars (that’s Best Film Director, Actor, Actress and Screenplay, either adapted or original)?

In 1935 the romantic comedy It Happened One Night became the first, followed by 1975’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Then, at the 1992 ceremony, The Silence of the Lambs followed in their footsteps.

The three films couldn’t be more different, with only a great story, fantastic performances and direction tying them together.

The last on the list has been dusted down and given a refreshing 4K restoration; it now looks sharper than ever, and still packs the same kind of punch that turned it into a cultural phenomenon when it received its big screen release more than 30 years ago.

The Silence Of The Lambs

“Prove herself in a man’s world”

For the uninitiated (and there can’t be too many of those out there), the basic plot involves the hunt for a killer nicknamed Buffalo Bill, but there’s so much more to it than that, with elements of sexism, feminism, mental health and other issues included.

At the film’s heart is rookie trainee FBI agent Clarice Starling, who’s determined to prove her worth in a man’s world. She’s given an opportunity to do so by her boss Jack Crawford, who thinks she may be able to persuade incarcerated psychiatrist Hannibal ‘the Cannibal’ Lecter to help them unmask the murderer.

It turns out he’s right; Starling and Lecter are now one of cinema’s most unlikely double acts, drawn together against either of the duo’s best instincts – see the film’s wondrously overblown Gothic sequel Hannibal for further details.

That probably wouldn’t have happened without the brilliant performances of Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins. Foster is everything Starling should be – tough but vulnerable, determined yet frightened; in short, she creates a completely believable human being full of inconsistencies and contradictions.

In sharp contrast, Hopkins is so over the top it’s ridiculous, and yet it somehow works. He’s also on screen for only a limited period of time, but his presence dominates every scene, whether he’s in it or not. It’s a performance that has often been imitated, but never bettered.

The Silence Of The Lambs

“Tense finale”

The action is superbly handled by director Jonathan Demme, whose clever use of the camera (a lot of the film is shot from Clarice’s point of view, so we see everything on her level, including the faces of those she meets; it’s as if they’re speaking directly to the viewer). Demme was one in a long line of film-makers to get their start via the late lamented Roger Corman – he even cast his former mentor in a small role as a thank you.

Based on a bestseller by Thomas Harris, The Silence of the Lambs has since been credited with creating a worldwide interest in serial killer thrillers and police procedural dramas that continues today. Whether that’s true or not is difficult to say, but even if you’ve seen the movie many times before, I defy anyone not to be on the edge of their seats during the tense finale, while Lecter’s wry last line never fails to raise a smile.

The disc is packed with special features – you will probably need to set aside an entire day to watch them all, but there’s some essential viewing here, including various pre-production tales involving who was initially approached to play some of the key roles. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that if any of them had accepted, it wouldn’t be as well-remembered or acclaimed today.

Lecter has appeared on screen both before and after The Silence of the Lambs, sometimes played by Hopkins, sometimes not, but this is the definitive portrayal of one of cinema’s best-loved villains.

  • 4K (2160p) UHD Blu-ray™ presentation in Dolby Vision (HDR10 compatible)
  • Newly restored original lossless 2.0 stereo soundtrack
  • Optional lossless 5.1 soundtrack
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • Brand new audio commentary by critics Elizabeth Purchell & Caden Mark Gardner
  • Audio commentary by critic Tim Lucas
  • Through Her Eyes – brand new visual essay on the theme of transformation by critic Justine Peres Smith
  • Healing Humanity – brand new visual essay exploring point of view and personalization by critic Willow Catelyn Maclay
  • Breaking the Silence – archival picture-in-picture interviews and trivia track
  • 2002 episode of the Bravo television series Page to Screen focusing on The Silence of the Lambs
  • Scoring the Silence – 2004 archival interview with composer Howard Shore
  • Jonathan Demme & Jodie Foster – three-part archival 2005 documentary by Laurent Bouzereau
  • Understanding the Madness – 2008 archival featurette featuring various FBI alumni discussing the profiling of serial killers
  • 1991 “Making Of” Featurette
  • 22 deleted scenes
  • 7 additional deleted scenes, sourced from a VHS workprint
  • Outtakes
  • Anthony Hopkins phone message
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Teaser trailer
  • 11 TV spots
  • Image gallery
  • Limited edition packaging with reversible sleeve featuring two original choices of artwork
  • Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Alexandra West, Josh Nelson, Sam Moore and Alexandra Heller-Nicholas
  • Double-sided fold-out poster, featuring two original choices of artwork
  • Six double-sided, postcard-sized lobby card reproduction artcards
The Silence of The Lambs is available on Limited Edition 4K UHD from Arrow

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