Hannibal Lector Collection - Breaking the Silence
| Silence of the Lambs
Silence of the Lambs is undoubtedly one of the best ďhorrorĒ (or whatever name you think best fits the genre) films of all time. Why? First of all because it is downright spooky. I figure being scary is the most important quality of a scary film.
I remember when I first saw Silence in a cinema, when I left, although it was the middle of the day and very sunny, I checked in the backseat of my car and underneath before I got in to drive away. Few films fill me with such a sense of unease. Itís a combination of great writing, both in terms of a great story and a great adaptation, note perfect performances by the entire cast, and a spot on direction that just nails the whole thing together.
Jonathon Demme knew just how to film this little tale. The film is famous for his claustrophobic close ups, characters looking right into the camera. It draws you in uncomfortably and heightens the sense of doom. However, he also films Silence in a manner which is rigidly minimalist. He focuses on just what is needed to tell the story and nothing more. This sparing crafting keeps the film tight and thrilling. He never lets you get bored.
However Silence of the Lambs is also grotesquely beautiful. From Lectorís cell to Buffalo Billís dungeon, the sets are gorgeously macabre. Lectorís stunningly horrifying escape is a sight to see, if you can keep your eyes open.
Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster play off each other perfectly. He crafts here the ultimate villain. He sucks us in as he sucks her in but remains terrifying. His performance is as brilliant as the mad doctor himself and Foster creates Clarice as a perfectly rounded whole. Itís rare to see such a perfect pairing come together in such a manner but Silence delivers.
And it keeps delivering. The film is never dated or tired. Itís still as scary as itís always been. The story is good enough to last, but also, the film makers donít shy away from the real horror of murder. So many horror films fail this way as they gloss over how truly evil and terrifying murder is. I guess they figure their audiences canít handle it. Silence doesnít speak down to its audience. It respects us and through that is perfect.
Everyone acknowledges that Silence of the Lambs is a masterpiece. Hannibal is the under appreciated brother to that film. I argue that director Ridley Scott has crafted his own masterpiece here, although certainly not in the same league as Silence.
Scott manages this by crafting a completely different film. He doesnít attempt to remake Silence. Hannibal is its own movie. This is a deliciously macabre unrequited love story. Lector cares for Clarice. He respects her and he tries to win her over in his way. The film makers wisely change the ending of the book so that Clarice never waivers in her convictions. This only makes Lector love her more. Itís beautiful.
There is also the fun fantasy of allowing an insane killer have his way. His hunting by Pazzi (or is it the other way around?) is delectable as is his war with Verger. Also, a great story, Hannibal is more over the top but itís also a logical conclusion (?) to Hannibalís story.
I think the Julianne Moore does very well stepping into Fosterís role. She nails the accent and the mannerisms that Foster created in Starling. She also holds true to the character. Hopkins is also wonderful. His portrayal in Silence is not surpassed, but here he takes the character to new places and really allows him to come alive. Itís a joy to watch although itís still horrifying. Maybe we side a little too much with Lector in this one since heís surrounded by people who are often as despicable as him if not even more.
Red Dragon is the overrated one in this set. Unlike Scott with Hannibal, Brett Ratnerís idea of film making is to copy. He attempts to recreate Silence but naturally no one could. Therefore, Dragon often feels like a copy. If heís not copying Silence heís copying Manhunter. The tiger scene is the best example of that.
Hopkins seems a little bored here. Heís doesnít have anything to do that he didnít already do in Silence. Unlike Hannibal, heís not in a different situation. It feels very ďbeen there, done that.Ē
The cast here is strong but most of them seem to be bored as well. This is especially true of Ed Norton who just never quite become Will Graham. This is not true however of Emily Watson and Ralph Fiennes whose part of the movie are the most riveting.
Red Dragon isnít bad, itís just not great and in comparison with the other films it doesnít fit. It is fun to see scenes that were referred to in the other films, such as the dinner party where he serves up the flute player. Also, Fiennes stalking the Grahams at the end is quite thrilling. Ratner can do action alright but he doesnít do gravitas and thatís what these films need.
Finally, Michael Mannís Manhunter, the first film made and also an adaptation of the authorís Red Dragon, is a decent film. Without Hopkins, the film just doesnít reach the same intensity. I love Brian Cox but he just doesnít get into Lector in the same way.