The movie that started my infatuation with serial killers. Also the movie that keeps me from listening to Tom Petty on a two-lane highway at night. Oh, and probably the movie that prevents me from helping any strangers carry anything. Oh, you need help carrying your groceries, alleged dirtbag? Sorry, I want to live. The 1991 film stars Jodie Foster as a young, eager FBI trainee and Anthony Hopkins as a classy yet cannibalistic forensic psychiatrist who is called upon to assist the FBI in catching the suspected serial killer, Buffalo Bill. Lecter, being nobody’s fool plays Starling like a cheap piano and provides little to no help in the case. The case goes high profile when a Senator’s daughter is kidnapped and authorities suspect that Buffalo Bill is responsible. Turns out, that Bill was actually a patient of Lecter’s and he is able to develop a fairly spot on profile but only after gleaning personal details from Starling. Buffalo Bill turns out to be a man who hates himself and has been skinning his female victims so that he can sew a skin suit and become a woman. Lecter escapes in the end after eating a secuirty guard’s face and flees to an island location. Clarice, basking in the success of her first case, graduates the academy and is contacted by Lecter who asks that she stop looking for him which she says she cannot do.
I saw this movie for the first time when I was still convinced that I was going to be an FBI agent and Clarice Starling was my idol (after Special Agent Dana Scully). There is a scene in this movie where Clarice is about to inspect a corpse and the local authorities won’t leave the room and I never really understood this. I later read an analysis of the movie that elaborated on the bias of women investigating crimes against women because we are thought to unfairly fixate on a male suspect. This is one of those chicken or the egg arguments, statistically, men perpetrate the most crimes against women so one could assume that the suspect would be male. We don’t see this with men because there are fewer female serial killers who target males. Anyway, the movie was criticized as being sexist but I feel that they were just highlighting an issue that a female might experience in a male dominated field.
It’s a fantastic movie, one that does not get old with multiple viewings. The books that the movies are based on are also very good although more disturbing than the film adaptation.