The Films That Made Us: The Silence of the Lambs
The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
It’s hard to recall when I first actually saw The Silence of the Lambs. It held such a ubiquitous cultural currency in the ‘90s, that you almost picked up knowledge and understanding of the film by osmosis. It’s very possible that I first saw the fantastic French and Saunders take-off sketch long before seeing the movie itself. Even via this second-hand satirical retelling, the tone of the film was translated perfectly, permeating across our collective consciousness so every reference to "fava beans" or "a nice chianti" made sense even without being acquainted with the source.
So, I don’t remember when I actually saw the film, but I have a feeling one of my reactions was to question why no-one had actually actively recommended it to me. Perhaps this ties into the above ubiquity, that you don’t recommend The Silence of the Lambs to people, because the expectation is that of course they’ve seen it already.
Maybe it’s perverse say all the above about a film which - let’s remember - won oscars for best lead actor, best lead actress and best director* But I’m not sure that The Silence of the Lambs quite has the reputation it deserves these days - as one of the best films of the '90s, which it unquestionably is. Everyone knows it but I feel that - to paraphrase the Fall song which soundtracks the film’s denouement - it is not ap-pre-ciat-ed. Think for a moment, other films have swept the board at the oscars, but how many have deserved to?
Perhaps it does and I just don’t realise it, but it seems things like the grossly overrated The Shawshank Redemption are looked upon more fondly. Perhaps this is a consequence of the familiarity of The Silence of the Lambs that I’ve already mentioned. That it’s so ingrained in us that we need reminding of it. It’s also certain that all the sequels, franchises and spin-offs don’t measure up and have diluted the legacy of the film. But to me it’s always worth returning to once a year.
I realise that I’ve written a whole piece on the film without giving any proper reasons as to why it is any good. Another time. I do wish we could chat longer, but, I'm having an old friend for dinner. Bye.
[Jon, Curzon Head Office]
*Some minor research reveals it in fact won ‘the big five’; actor, actress, director, screenplay and picture.