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YMMV: The Silence of the Lambs

  • Adaptation Distillation: A bit of an odd one, as Ridley Scott's Hannibal film is largely considered mediocre and forgettable, but some fans argue even that is quite an accomplishment considering how terrible the book is.
    • Bit of Broken Base here as well, with the other half of the fandom that like the book but loathe the movie.
  • Alas, Poor Scrappy: The death of Freddy Lounds.
  • Alternative Character Interpretation: Hannibal's motivation and state of mind, especially in the films. While he denies having a Freudian Excuse and claims he ‘happened’, Hannibal and Hannibal Rising explain that he did experience the horrible trauma of his sister being murdered and eaten, but passages in Hannibal and the twist in Hannibal Rising imply that he was to an undetermined degree resentful towards her, and the act he witnessed actually inspired him by showing him how deep evil can get. He has a somewhat strange relationship with these understandings, alternating between accepting and rejecting either or both, calmly denying that he resented his sister when Clarice asks him about it near the end of Hannibal and breaks into a huge cry of despair when he is reminded that he ate his sister too in Rising.
    • Was Chilton really just being a jerk, or was he just throwing a fit about not being as useful to the FBI in Silence Of The Lambs as he was in Red Dragon.
  • Awesome Music: The hypnotic "Goodbye Horses." Silence actually wasn't the first movie it appeared in (that would be Married to the Mob), but it definitely has the most memorable use of it.
  • Complete Monster:
    • From Hannibal, Mason Verger is a warped pedophile who had the misfortune to run afoul of Hannibal and ended up disfigured and crippled in a wheelchair for it. Seeking revenge, Verger murders and schemes so he can capture Hannibal and feed him to specially trained wild pigs. Now impotent, Verger obtains satisfaction by torturing and abusing children and drinks martinis made from their tears. Verger also uses his own sister as a servant, having kept her in line with a series of violent rapes earlier in life. Fortunately, the film only implies he was a pædophile, like his father, with any other gruesome details pertaining solely to his Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
    • From Hannibal Rising, Vladis Grutas is a vicious war criminal who escaped justice in World War 2. A member of the collaborating Lithuanian militias, Grutas led the sack of a small town and personally executed Jewish prisoners. One Rabbi was executed by Grutas sawing his head off. During the winter, Grutas and his men took refuge in a small building with a young Hannibal and his baby sister Mischa inside. Grutas, to stave off hunger, decapitated Mischa with an axe and had her cooked and fed to the others. In the present, Grutas is a mob boss who uses murder and prostitution to further profits. When he and Hannibal fight to the end, Grutas takes pleasure in mocking Hannibal how he also fed him his own sister in the winter years ago.
  • Crazy Awesome: Not all the time, but Lecter's escape in Silence of the Lambs runs on this. Disposing of the guards as mentioned above, then getting their backup to carry him out of the prison themselves by wearing his victim's clothes and mutilated face over his own.
  • Creepy Awesome: Lecter
  • Crosses the Line Twice: in the book (only) of Silence.
    Dr. Lecter: * showing Starling a letter* "This is about my crucifixion watch. They won't give me a patent, but they advise me to copyright the face. ... You may have noticed that in most crucifixions the hands point to, say, a quarter to three, or ten till two at the earliest, while the feet are at six. On this watch face, Jesus is on the cross, as you see there, and the arms revolve to indicate the time, just like the arms on the popular Disney watches. the feet remain at six and at the top a small second hand revolves in the halo. What do you think?"
    • In a bizarrely creepy way, some of Lecter's killing's. In particular, the way he strings up the disemboweled guard to look like an angel during his escape in the movie. Another one is his "bloody angel" killing from Hannibal. He splits the victim's ribs near the spine and pulls the lungs out the back, and flattens them, making them look like wings. Both are, in a very disturbing and macabre way, almost artistic.
      • The books hint that part of the reason Lecter does this is to distract and shock investigators, tripping them up on the horrific details and giving him more time to cover his tracks or otherwise get clear.
  • Draco in Leather Pants: Hey, a refined, intelligent, older man? Oooh yeah. What of the Cannibalism?
  • Fanon Discontinuity: Thomas Harris intended to stop the story with Silence, until the publisher told him either he could write more, or they'd get someone else to do it. Naturally, a lot of fans prefer to stop there.
  • First Installment Wins: If you ignore Manhunter.
  • Foe Yay: Hannibal and Clarice. Who could have guessed?
  • Fridge Brilliance:
    • While Hannibal tries to keep an air of class and superiority with a clear case of a God complex, and claims he eats "rude people" and people he needs to kill to escape, he ate the face off a nurse who was trying to help him, right off her head, like a wild animal. This clashes with all of his characterisation, but it explains how he can tell that Gumb's basic nature has nothing to do with killing and everything to do with coveting, because the truth is, his own first and principal thing he does is killing people. It apparently takes one to know one.
    • When Clarice finally confides in Hannibal the reason she's motivated to become an FBI agent, Hannibal is not simply pleased with having manipulated her. Look at his face and listen to his tone when he thanks her: he's going through an emotional process far more profound than that, namely a Heel-Face Turn or Love Redeems, culminating near the end of Hannibal, when he chopped off his own hand to avoid doing it to Clarice when he has no other means of escape. Clarice showed him what a profound urge for good looks like, which is what might have finally redeemed him. (This only applies for the films: in the novel, he settles down with Clarice instead, and it's never indicated whether or not he is ultimately redeemed; Instead, he just realises she'd be a good ersatz-Mischa.)
  • Genius Bonus: Hannibal famously said of one victim that he "ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti." Liver, fava beans, and wine all contain a substance called tyramine, which can cause a severe reaction in any person taking an MAO inhibitor drug. MAO inhibitors, in turn, are one of the first antidepressants and were a regular part of the drug regimen given to people in insane asylums before safer antidepressants became available. Thus, anyone committed to an insane asylum — such as Hannibal Lecter himself — would have been forbidden from consuming liver, fava beans, or Chianti.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: Clarice thinks that Hannibal's crimes are due to some sort of Freudian Excuse; Hannibal tells her that it's foolish thinking and that she's abandoning the concepts of good and evil for behaviouralism. Twenty years later, Hannibal Rising, a book detailing Hannibal's origins and motivations, was released, although it’s implied he was naturally evil to begin with, and the incidents in the book just showed him how to put it into horrifying use.
    Dr. Lecter: Nothing happened to me, Officer Starling. I happened. You can't reduce me to a set of influences.
    • The FBI using Johns Hopkins as a source for a list of people applying for sex changes. This means the book has several people, including Lecter, talking about "Hopkins."
  • Jerkass Woobie: All of the serial killers, including Lecter himself. Dolarhyde was horrifically abused as a child, and Gumb has his own issues and problems; and then there is Lecter's own backstory explored in the last two books.
  • Les Yay: In a discussion of motivation, Hannibal tells Starling "we start by coveting the things we see every day." Starling repeats this observation to her FBI room-mate Ardelia, and they smile at each other.
  • Magnificent Bastard: If anyone can be considered one, it's Lecter.
  • Memetic Mutation: Ask anyone to name the most famous line from Silence and you'll most likely get "It rubs the lotion on its skin or else it gets the hose again" as an answer.
  • Mind Game Ship: The interactions that Clarice have with Hannibal himself seems to trick the audience into thinking that they will fall in love with each other.
    • To be fair in the books, they do.
  • Nausea Fuel: Plenty. Buffalo Bill's bathtub is a good example.
    • The rotting corpse in the funeral home
    • Buffalo Bill's woman suit, seen briefly in one shot.
  • Nightmare Fuel: Plenty. Especially the scene with Catherine in the pit where she sees the broken fingernail.
  • One-Scene Wonder: Anthony Hopkins won a Best Leading Actor for only 24 minutes of screen time total.
  • Sequelitis: On both the page and the screen, Hannibal is commonly felt to be severely flawed, but not completely lacking in merit, while Hannibal Rising is regarded as being just flat-out terrible. Not really surprising when you consider that Harris didn't want to write either story, and only did it to prevent someone else coming along and potentially doing an even worse job.
    • Flip Flop of God is in play here as far as "Hannibal" goes; Harris usually claims he wrote it to finally put Lecter to bed and keep him from taking over any other books the way he did "Silence." The above is completely true about "Hannibal Rising," though.
  • Squick: Oh, lots.
  • Tear Jerker: Clarice's backstory.
    • Catherine's captivity by Buffalo Bill. Made all the worse by the fact that the movie takes great pains to make her a sympathetic character who the audience desperately wants to see saved. The worst scene is probably her desperately sobbing and begging Gumb to let her go, saying that she wants to go home and see her mother again.
    • Everything related to Bella is a tearjerker in The Silence of the Lambs but especially her death. After Bella dies, Crawford simply holds her for a while then dresses Bella in her favorite bed gown. And then:
      Crawford tried going into the next room - he still could turn when he wanted to and see her through the open door, composed in the warm light of the bedside lamp. He was waiting for her body to become a ceremonial object apart from him, separate from the person he had held upon the bed and separate from the life's companion he had held now in his mind. So he could call them to come for her.
      His empty hands hanging palms forward at his sides, he stood at the window looking to the empty east. He did not look for dawn; east was only the way the window faced.
      • His last words to her also count. Bella wakes up one last time and Crawford stays by her side even though she might not even be aware of him or be able to hear him. Crawford makes sure to let her know how much she is loved and that he is there for her till the end.
        Crawford: Bella, I love you, kid.
    • The sad fate of Hannibal's family. Especially Mischa. Poor Mischa.
    • After Clarice's first meeting with Lecter in Silence where she has been mentally picked apart by Lecter and sexually assaulted by Miggs. At first Clarice stoically walks out of the building to her car. As she does, she has a flashback to a happier time in her childhood of her father coming home from work. When the flashback ends, the scene cuts back to Clarice in the present standing next to her car and sobbing. Made even sadder by the fact that crying in the privacy of a car is apparently something common among real life FBI agents as a way to cope with the stress of their jobs, as Jodie Foster learned while researching her role.
  • Unfortunate Implications: Silence is infamous among the LGBT for its transsexual serial killer. Although Lector says he isn't transsexual, and he was even rejected for a sex-change.
    • There are several implications in the movie that Gumb was the victim of a Critical Psycho Analysis Failure. He was misdiagnosed as a trans person and wound up genuinely believing it. His psychological profile was all wrong for a sex change, which was why he was rejected...and ironically, why he started killing.
    • Amusingly, the book went out of its way to avoid these implications in a phone conversation between Crawford and the head of a gender-reassignment surgery. The doctor objects to the labeling of a killer as a transsexual for this very reason, and Crawford is only able to get the information he wants when he points out that he wants the names of people rejected for reassignment surgery, which the doctor is more than happy to provide. This scene didn't make the movie, and so the doctor's arguments were echoed by critics.
      • The film does address this argument, just more briefly- Clarice tells Lecter that Buffalo Bill cannot be a transsexual because nothing in the literature suggests transsexuals is related to violence; Lecter agrees with her and says that Bill is not actually a transsexual, he just thinks he is. As it happens, though, both they, the doctor and the critics are out-of-date - its true that transexualism is not related to violence; its also true that being violent, even a Serial Killer, does not mean that one is not transsexual. In Real Life Bill probably would be considered a genuine transsexual - that, though, says nothing at all about transsexuals in general.
    • Margot Verger from Hannibal is a horrifically offensive Butch Lesbian stereotype. Notably, Bryan Fuller went out of his way to avoid all this with her portrayal in his series.
  • Villain Sue: Lecter devolves into this completely throughout the course of the third book, Hannibal. Red Dragon and The Silence of the Lambs made a credibly realistic character of him; he was highly intelligent but by no means infallible, charismatic but still a very unsettling individual and good at taking advantage of a situation and improvising plans. By Hannibal he's a prodigy of everything, no longer reacts to pain, plans things out months in advance, and commits impossibly over-the-top murders. While Red Dragon and Silence of the Lambs demonstrate that for all of his cunning and charming behavior, he is still a sociopathic murderer, Hannibal introduced a Freudian Excuse that really came across as a kind of Draco in Leather Pants justification for the character. The two examples that send this over the edge are his romantic conquest of Clarice Starling at the end and the time when the cannibal pigs respect him too much to attack him.
  • The Woobie: Reba McClane, particularly as played by Emily Watson.
    • Crawford as well, in the novel of Silence.
    • Margot has some woobie-ish tendencies as well.
    • Clarice a bit as well, in the first half of Hannibal, after the press has smeared her for the way the way the DC drug bust went, even though she and John were the only people actually doing their job right.
    • Averted by Catherine, who defies Gumb at every opportunity, and is depicted less as helpless than simply overpowered. She's almost an Action Girl, and despite using Gumb's beloved poodle as a hostage against him, she quietly whispers to the dog that she'd never hurt it. She even keeps the dog in the end of the movie taking it with her into the ambulance. (How much of an aversion this is can be contested, though, as she's pretty clearly traumatized for life after all of this.)

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