Fabrice du Welz follows up Calvaire and Vinyan with a tale of murderous lovers, drawn from a real-life story
FBI agent Clarice Starling's battle of wits with Dr Hannibal Lecter makes for compulsive viewing in this strange, seductive story of heroics, anti-heroics and serial killers
A modern thriller masterpiece that established intellectual murderer Dr Hannibal Lecter in the canon of cinematic monsters, as much for his manifest intelligence as for his violent and cannibalistic tendencies.
When a serial killer (dubbed 'Buffalo Bill') is on the loose, an FBI profiler approaches the imprisoned serial killer Lecter (Hopkins) for psychological advice on the murderer. Lecter refuses to work with anyone other than rookie agent Clarice Starling (Foster), offering her titbits of information in return for her life story. Her FBI boss, Jack Crawford (Glenn), warns her "Believe me, you don't want Hannibal Lecter inside your head," but that's where he's heading. The famous exchange that leads to her childhood memory that gives the film its title begins with him coercing painful reminiscences out of her. "After your father's murder, you were orphaned. You were ten years old. You went to live with cousins on a sheep and horse ranch in Montana. And...?"
A devious complex character, there's more to Lecter's agenda, however, than messing with Clarice's head. There's the small matter of his relationship with Buffalo Bill, and his plans for escape - which, of course, include him indulging his cannibalism.
Although some claim that the previous portrayal of Lecter (then spelt Lecktor) by Cox in Manhunter is superior, Hopkins makes the role his own. With flashes of urbanity, wit and fierce intelligence he creates an unforgettable grotesque. Against him, Foster is the embodiment of pluck, desperately fighting to understand Lecter's gnomic utterances and capture Buffalo Bill.
Director Demme loses the plot at the end with madmen, skins and yapping dogs, but this is a still wonderful example of classy storytelling and unforgettable characterisation.
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