Revisiting “Silence of the Lambs”

17Apr12

Instead of working on a script, I make some painfully-obvious observations about an old movie.

I’m supposed to be working on a script. Or two. Technically, I always am, supposed to be working on one, that is. And I guess, technically, I always am. I think watching “Silence of the Lambs” helps a little to prepare for writing. Not as much as actually writing, but some of the preparation.

It’s actually an elegant movie, and one we discussed on “Over/Under.” So matter of fact and no fuss. The scares in it are entirely in the mind and they fester and root down until you can’t shake the feeling like everything is cold and scary.

It’s also great at how it sets up each characters behavior, wants and needs. Sounds like text book stuff, and it is, but when it’s done this well you realize how few movies pull it off, or pull it off this well. There are so many story grenades (the bugs, for instance) that visually signify things to come without having to tell us. There’s subtext and intent and misdirection and everything.

There’s interesting jumps in story as well, as when Clarice decides to visit Hannibal in his new cage in the … museum? A lesser movie would have had a scene preceding where she explains “I’m gonna go talk to by old crazy buddy,” but they skip right past it and it fits her nature. She’s ambitious, inquisitive and driven. She doesn’t trust the information (we don’t/shouldn’t either) so she goes to him. There isn’t even a scene where Clarice puts that together. She just does and you go to the next interesting scene. I can’t believe this film is only two hours long.

And I can’t tell if I’m creeped out by what I’m really seeing or what I remember. We’ve just come to the “Woman suit fitting” scene, and I don’t remember everything, sure, but I started grimacing as soon as that music started up.

I am also watching this film in the appropriate setting: the daytime. I can’t imagine seeing in an actual theater. The direction puts it all on the viewer. I didn’t remember how many characters spoke directly to camera. I hope I can get it out.

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