The silence of the lambs: exactly 30 years ago, Hannibal Lecter conquered the cinema

The silence of the Lambs
Exactly 30 years ago, Hannibal Lecter conquered the cinema

The Beast in the Cage: Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter in “The Silence of the Lambs”

© imago images / EntertainmentPictures

“The Silence of the Lambs” came to the cinema 30 years ago. To this day it is the last film that achieved a very special feat.

“I enjoyed his liver with a few fava beans and an excellent Chianti.” Exactly 30 years to the day that cannibal Hannibal Lecter, played masterfully by Sir Anthony Hopkins (83), feasted on film history in “The Silence of the Lambs”. It was not the first screen appearance that “Hannibal the Cannibal” made on April 11, 1991. But probably the one who washed him into pop culture and gives the sadistic monster a perfidious fascination to this day – not least thanks to his congenial film partner Clarice Starling, played by Jodie Foster (58).

The template

“The Silence of the Lambs” is based on the novel of the same name by US author Thomas Harris (80), which he published in 1988. Its predecessor, “Roter Drache”, was released in 1981 and was filmed before “Das Schweigen der Lämmer”. 1986 came the novel as “Manhunter – Roter Drache” by director Michael Mann (78) in the cinema, but without Hopkins. Instead, the Scottish character mime Brian Cox (74) was given the honor of playing the first Hannibal Lecter in cinema history.

Even if “Manhunter” got good reviews, very few will see him as the on-screen birth of the world-famous cannibal – Hopkins took care of it in 1991. With steel-blue, almost inhuman eyes, he seemed to be staring the audience straight into the deepest depths of their souls, while he – without blinking – stared through the window of his prison cell in the direction of Agent Starling.

It’s all about this

In the film, the young FBI candidate tries to earn the psychopath’s trust in order to be able to use his help to catch another serial killer. The killer, dubbed “Buffalo Bill” by the gossip papers, already has five women on his conscience, from whom he has removed parts of their skin. But the police are in the dark. In order to find such a sick man, so the desperate hope of the agent, an equally sick mind is required – that of Hannibal Lecter. But he has his own motivations for helping Starling and soon she finds herself caught in the midst of the morbid attraction of the charismatic cannibal.

One of three

It was the haunting, psychologically difficult and chamber play-like scenes of the two in the film by Jonathan Demme (1944-2017) that basically left the Oscar Academy with no other choice than when Hopkins and Foster won the Oscars as “Best Actor” and “Best.” Leading actress “to give. But that’s not all. “Best Film” was also won, Demme was also honored for “Best Director” and Ted Tally (69) for “Best Adapted Screenplay”. As only one of three films at all and as the last work so far, “The Silence of the Lambs” managed to win in all five important categories, the so-called “Big Five”. This was previously only possible with the screwball comedy “It happened in one night” (1934) and the drama “One flew over the cuckoo’s nest” (1975).

While Foster did not return to the part of FBI agent Starling, Hopkins played in two more parts. In 2001 the sequel “Hannibal” was released, before a remake of the prehistory, ie “Red Dragon”, followed a year later. But his acting was no longer to be as iconic as the performance in “The Silence of the Lambs”. But it was definitely the role of his life.