Reviewed by: Brett Willis
|Featuring:||Jodie Foster, Lawrence A. Bonney, Kasi Lemmons, Lawrence T. Wrentz|
|Producer:||Strong Heart/Demme Production
Sequel: “Hannibal” (2001)
This has to be one of the most gruesome and disturbing films that ever won a Best Picture Oscar.
There’s a new serial killer of women on the loose. FBI officer Jack Crawford (Scott Glenn) believes that a particular psychiatrist, himself an imprisoned serial killer/cannibal, can render the best psychological profile on the new killer. For reasons he considers logical, Crawford sends trainee Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster), rather than a full-fledged agent, to sound out the prisoner, Hannibal Lecter (Sir Anthony Hopkins). It turns out that Dr. Lecter may be able to do more than give a profile—he may know the new killer’s identity!
Profanity is extreme. During an FBI examination of a victim’s corpse, we see brief partial nudity and a view where some patches of skin have been removed (it turns out that the new killer thinks he’s a transsexual, and he’s making himself a woman’s suit out of real women). We see how the new killer assaults, abducts and imprisons one victim; and how Lecter, during an escape attempt, bites the face of a guard. There are other equally disgusting scenes which I can’t detail without giving away the plot. Then there’s the creepiness of the interchanges between Starling and the imprisoned Lecter as each tries to manipulate and play mind games with the other. Lecter is not insane (unable to tell right from wrong); he’s just psychopathic (which means he’s unable to give and receive love, and has no concern for how he treats others).
When Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho” (1960) started the long string of movies about serial killers, there were few real-life cases for the films to use as character models. That’s not a problem today. The primary cause of the great increase in psychopathy is not the media, it’s the large number of children growing up without a traditional family structure and not being allowed to bond to anyone as infants. But if a person is already psychopathic, watching endless movie and TV portrayals of crime (and pornography) can lower his inhibitions and make it more likely that he himself will become a serious criminal rather than just go through life as a general all-around jerk. Although “Silence of the Lambs” has higher production values than “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” or “I Dismember Mama”, the release of any film of this type creates an increased risk of violence in society. As I write this (January 2000), there’s a sequel “Hannibal” in the works; but the script is so far-fetched that both the original director and Jodie Foster have pulled out of the project.
Is there anything that can be done to make psychopaths LESS dangerous? I have a book whose authors detail a therapy that is effective in younger patients; but they admit that for older adolescents and adults, the best “treatment” is religious conversion. Without taking a position on whether conversion is “real,” they note that “bonding to God” somehow replaces the patient’s lack of bonding to his parents. Psalm 27:10 says: “When my father and my mother forsake me, then the LORD will take me up [take care of me].” It doesn’t matter what we’ve experienced in the past; we have a Father in Heaven who will be the right kind of father.