My new interest in the fictional killer Hannibal Lecter has led me to not only watching the show Hannibal, but also deciding to watch all of the movies with the character. Along with that, I have also ordered the collection of books by Thomas Harris where the character originated so that I can also read them. The best thing about all of these various forms of media surrounding the character, I have gone into each one almost blind. The one exception being The Silence of the Lambs. An Oscar darling of a movie that took some of the biggest awards home has always been something that I knew about, but have never had the pleasure of actually watching.
Yes, I said it. I have never seen The Silence of the Lambs. I have never even seen portions of it. All I know about the movie is that the stars are Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins. Had I not watched the Hannibal TV show prior to watching this, I likely wouldn’t have known anything about the character of Hannibal either. Even with how well Mads Mikkelsen played the character in the TV show, I went into this movie with a blank slate understanding that it was Hopkins himself that defined the character before Mads took his shot.
With the success in the back of my mind, I did my best to shut those thoughts out so that I could just enjoy the movie. The one point that kept nagging at me though was that I have continuously heard that Hopkins is outstanding but is only in the movie for about fifteen minutes. The moment they introduced him, I started to get worried that the rest of the movie wasn’t going to be able to live up to the quality of character he is right off the bat.
The fifteen minutes however is a little exaggerated. Maybe on a technical level if we break down the total time, I might be wrong and it might actually be closer to fifteen minutes, but it never feels like it’s a short amount of time spent with the character. Understandably though, Hannibal is not the main villain of the movie so his role should have been limited the way it was. The unfortunate result though is that I think they got more out of Anthony Hopkins than they expected. He falls so deeply and perfectly into this role that it really is just a damn shame that the movie wasn’t focused on him.
He was putting on an acting clinic in every scene that he’s in with Jodie Foster as Clarice being the perfect contrast to what he was bringing. The incredibly odd yet perfect chemistry between the two is what makes those scenes the absolute best and highest points of the movie. If not for Hannibal, we would not have had such a powerful performance pulled out of Jodie Foster. That’s not a knock by any means on her part because she’s a very gifted actress, but you could see her skill being pulled out of her with every Hopkins interaction.
I keep bringing up these two characters as the main points of a movie that is actually about another character, Buffalo Bill. A sadistic serial killer who has a gender identification problem with himself. I’m not sure if that’s the correct way to say that, but essentially he wants to be a woman but is unable to get a hospital to do the surgeries. This leads him to turning a bit psychotic and kidnapping women to eventually kill them and pull their skin off so that he can wear their skin.
Yeah, crazy enough that’s actually the kind of serial killer that matches up with what I was hoping to get as a second to Hannibal even though Hannibal technically is a second to him. The good thing though with Buffalo Bill being this crazy in what he does is that it makes him a truly fearful villain for Clarice. He never reaches the bar that Hannibal sets, but works for what the story was trying to do. The only downside of the character and movie as a whole is the ending encounter between him and Clarice. It seemed a bit cheesy and unlikely that he would have left himself that open to be killed. Unless of course you assume that he had just given up on everything but with him getting ready to kill her, it just didn’t seem that way.
This brings me to the story as a whole from start to finish. The story is very strong in how it sets up the plot and mystery and everything coming together with all of the moving pieces, but it doesn’t quite stick the landing as much as I expected it to. I believe this is by nobody’s fault except that Hopkins was just so damn good as Hannibal. He gives an all time performance that overshadows the rest of the movie and leaves you wanting more. Especially with an ending that leaves you hanging and wanting the story to continue with just Hannibal and Clarice.
Does the movie deserve to be recognized as well as it is or is it riding the back of an all time performance of a villain seconded by another fantastic performance by Jodie Foster? I can’t say that I have actually seen all of the other movies that were nominated that year, so it’s hard to say. The performances are well deserving of the awards, but the story itself I feel doesn’t quite live up to how good the characters were. Now again it’s nitpicking because this movie is so much better than most movies that have attempted to do a similar story, but I was just expecting a bit more.
It also leaves me wondering what could have been with a season 4 of Hannibal that was expected to introduce Clarice where we could have gotten another adaptation of the Silence of the Lambs storyline. There are just a lot of moving parts when discussing all of the different adaptations of a story that I have yet to read. This movie in the end is a great movie, I was invested the whole time and couldn’t get enough of the chemistry by Foster and Hopkins. I can see why it has received as much recognition as it has, but I still have some questions for what could have been better.
I will be reading and reviewing the books soon enough, so it will be an interesting comparison when I get to that point. I will also be reviewing the other Hannibal films that have been released, so again we will see how those end up being. If you have seen The Silence of the Lambs and have your own comments or questions then feel free to comment below or email us at TowerCityMedia@gmail.com and follow us @TowerCityMedia