My best Cinematic Fiend
Watched Silence of the Lambs last night. I have stopped counting how many times I have watched it already, but it was quite a long time since I had last visited Hannibal Lecter’s cell. And with nothing better to do I choose to refresh its vaguely frightful aura in my memory. I remember being frightened by the film when I first saw it, and was confused for being so. There were no ghosts, no vampires, no lurking prehistoric beasts in it, yet it had managed to penetrate my skin and give me Goosebumps. I wonder whether it was Hannibal Lecter’s unblinking gaze that did the trick!
Films based on serial killers are more horrific than the ones featuring supernatural threats because the former are plausible; because such films are aware that evil dwells not without, but within humans. And out of all cinematic representations of evil that I have encountered so far, Hannibal Lecter provides utmost guilty pleasure. Off course, there are notorious killers lurking the periphery of the Lecter world – Buffalo Bill who rips the skin off his victims (featured in Silence of the Lambs, 1991), and Tooth Fairy who kills families on full moon nights and places mirrors in place of their eyes (featured in Red Dragon, 2002); but Lecter, more or less, remains the center of attraction – maybe because of his cold, indifferent presence marked by a sly and mannered way of communicating that makes those in his vicinity feel totally penetrated and uncomfortable in front of a man who appears to know their psyche quite well. We see him in his cell, behind Plexiglas wall, roaming like a patient beast; then we unconsciously ask ourselves a question: what can this man do if he is on the other side of the wall? Our fear arises from this possibility; from our imagination of what he is capable of doing. I cannot imagine any other actor playing Lecter except Anthony Hopkins. What a performance! He is one of my favorite actors, and in Hannibal Lecter he has created a character that will be feared and admired by generations of movie buffs. Hope I am not getting carried away, but it is one of my beloved performances ever!
On the other hand, I consider Hannibal Lecter mere fantasy. I don’t think a person like him can exist. Even the sequence when he escapes from the prison cell was too over the top. In fact, Zodiac (2007) directed by David Fincher, and a Korean film Memories of Murder (2003) are far more plausible films made on a similar subject because they follow the real case files very closely, involve us into the investigation, and are still thrilling. We only know what the investigators know; hence in both the films we end up without knowing who the real killers were. Though we get clues, they are generally misleading.
Come to think of it, a Buffalo Bill can lurk among us. But a monster as controlled and literate as Hannibal Lecter!? Um, no, he cannot exist outside the reel. And so is the Joker from The Dark Knight (2008), who also happens to be a fantasy and has his place only on the celluloid. But this doesn’t console us. They are the manifestations, or should I say, symbolizations of evil. Their dark and brooding presence provide gravity for the plot to curl and wrap around them, and we are made aware of the vulnerability of our sense of order. They make us unsettled. Needless to say, they provide a thrilling movie experience (our main purpose for watching such movies), unmatched by dummy movie monsters like Godzilla and Anaconda.
P.S. Did I mention that Hopkins has delivered one of the best performances ever?