If Francis Dolarhyde was the star of The Red Dragon, Hannibal Lecter was the star of Silence of the Lambs. This was in spite of the fact that he wasn’t the killer they were looking for. His personality far eclipsed that of Buffalo Bill, a very cruel and merciless Killer who thought he could become beautiful by wearing the skin of women he had killed.
Hannibal Lecter was a man of mystery at the time Silence. The other books about Lecter, Hannibal and Hannibal Rising had not been published yet. I think Mr. Harris did his own creation a disservice by giving us an explanation for Hannibal.
Both The Red Dragon and The Silence of the Lambs feature an interesting detective who solve the case(s). In The Red Dragon, it is Will Graham who had actually retired from the FBI. A lot of psychopaths think he is a pro-social psychopath and that is how he is able to understand and find the killers. Even Lecter shares this view. He said, “The reason you caught me is that we’re just alike. He claimed that collateral damage in the hunt, Eddie Lounds, was deliberately set up to be murdered by Will Graham, ignoring the fact that others set up the trap that was supposed to spring on the Dragon. Dr. Alan Bloom had a different take on it. “Fear comes with imagination, it’s a penalty, it’s the price of imagination…. What he has in addition is pure empathy and projection,” Dr. Bloom said. “He can assume your point of view, or mine — and maybe some other points of view that scare and sicken him. It’s an uncomfortable gift, Jack. Perception’s a tool that’s pointed on both ends.”
Silence, of course, had Clarice Starling, a trainee for the FBI. She wanted to go into Behavior Science. Lecter was charmed by her beauty, courage and vulnerability. In the course of the investigation, Starling makes herself much more vulnerable by describing painful memories from her own life.
However, it is Hannibal who dominates the book and film. It is probably the first book that showed psychopathy in such an interesting light.
“Dr. Lecter amused himself—he has extensive internal resources and can entertain himself for years at a time. His thoughts were no more bound by fear or kindness than Milton’s were by physics. He was free in his head.
Barney, the overseer of the cell block, said about him, ” You think they’ll treat him all right? You know how he is—you have to threaten him with boredom.That’s all he’s afraid of. Slapping him around’a no good.”
When Lecter confronts Senator Martin, Harris provides, “Senator Martin and Hannibal Lecter considered each other, one extremely bright and, the other not measurable by any means known to man.” (What a wonderful mystery Harris destroyed by his subsequent books.) Lecter made the cruel comment about breastfeeding but he wasn’t as crude as he is in the movie. (People should really read the book.) “When her pupils darkened, Dr. Lecter took a single sip of her pain and found it exquisite.”
Lecter has manipulated the stupid to have himself removed from the custody of the intelligent. “Strikes me he’s pretty much of a broke-dick,” said Boyle, of the Lecter’s new keepers. How wrong he was. Lecter’s escape was brilliant. He gives just enough clues for Clarice to solve the case. The cliffhanger at the end was another of Harris’ great touches.
I can’t finish talking about Silence of the Lambs without talking about Anthony Hopkins. His Lecter was as perfect as it could be. His dialogue with Clarice at their first meeting will always go down as a classic.