Week 4 – Actors of The Silence of the Lambs

Title:  Silence of the Lambs

Director:  Jonathan Demme

Year:  1991

Actors:
Jodie Foster (Clarice Starling)
Anthony Hopkins (Dr. Hannibal Lecter)
Ted Levine (Jame Gumb/Buffalo Bill)

Jodie Foster:

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Jodie began her career in a television commercial at the age of 4.  By the time she was 10 she was appearing in sitcoms and also made her film debut.  Her breakthrough role occurred in 1976 as a child prostitute starring opposite Robert DeNiro in Taxi Driver (1976), a role in which gave her the first nomination for an Academy Award.  However, she wouldn’t win her first Academy Award until 1988 for her role in The Accused (1988) and then again for her role in The Silence of the Lambs (1991) (Jodie Foster).

For her role in The Silence of the Lambs and for just all other projects she’s involved in, I would classify Jodie as a “wild card” actor, as she has proven many times over that she can play any type of role exceptionally.  She is able to flawlessly go from an FBI agent in The Silence of the Lambs (1991) to the musical remake, Anna and the King (1999) to fantasy film, Nim’s Island (2008).

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Anthony Hopkins:

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Hopkins is a Welsh born actor who graduated from the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama in 1957 (Anthony Hopkins).  He began his career in the theatre where he made a considerable name for himself.   He got his break in 1968, playing Richard I, in The Lion in Winter (1968) (Anthony Hopkins).  He has been nominated for four Academy Awards for his roles.  He won the Best Actor for his role as Dr. Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs (1991).

Anthony Hopkins is considered by many to be on the greatest living actors.  As such, he also can be considered a “wild card” actor.  Interestingly, he claims to despise “method actors”.  In interview with the Huffington Post (2012), Hopkins states; “There’s no such thing. Well, you can do it if you want, but I don’t go along with being called ‘Mr. Hitchcock.’ I think that’s a lot of crap. I just don’t understand that. If actors want to do that, fine. If they want to be miserable, that’s up to them. I’m not interested. It’s a job. I do the job. I’m certainly not going to make my life miserable just to be a character.”(Hopkins, 2012).  Although Hopkins’ character, Dr. Lecter was only in the movie for a total of 17 minutes, the effect he had on audiences worldwide were far greater, as the first person that comes to mind when thinking of the movie is the cannibalistic doctor.  Hoping for the same success as The Silence of the Lambs (1991) there were two subsequent sequels, also starring Anthony Hopkins as Dr. Lecter; Hannibal (2001) and Red Dragon (2002).  There was also a prequel, Hannibal Rising (2007).  Today there is also a rather successful television series called Hannibal (Hannibal Lecter, 2013).

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Ted Levine:

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Ted Levine was born in Ohio in 1957. He performed in local theater throughout the years in Vermont, Michigan and West Virginia before settling in Chicago where he joined The Remains, whom he performed with throughout the 80’s before he began working in television and film (Ted Levine).  Ted’s most famous break-out role came as the role of Jame Gumb aka Buffalo Bill in The Silence of the Lambs (1991).

Although his physical part in movie was small; it was one of the focal points of the entire movie.  For this specific role, I would classify Ted Levine as a “character actor” as he is a relatively unknown actor yet in high demand and will always be known for his role as Buffalo Bill, a psychopathic killer that skins his victims.

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References:

Anthony Hopkins. (n.d.). Retrieved November 25, 2014, from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthony_Hopkins#Awards_and_nominations

Goodykoontz, B., & Jacobs, C. P. (2014). Film: From Watching to Seeing, 2nd Ed. San Diego: Bridgepoint Education Inc.

Hannibal Lecter (franchise)  (2013). Retrieved November 25, 2014, from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hannibal_Lecter_(franchise)

Hopkins, A. (2012, November 20). Anthony Hopkins On Method Actors: ‘What A Pain In The A**’. (D. Carlson, Interviewer)

Jodie Foster. (n.d.). Retrieved November 25, 2014, from IMDb: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000149/bio

Ted Levine. (n.d.). Retrieved November 25, 2014, from IMBd: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0505971/bio?ref_=nm_ov_bio_sm

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Week 3 – Sound Techniques Used in The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

 

Along with the plot, characters and visual imagery, sound is an extremely important and well respected part of the movie making process.  The three basic elements of sound in a film are dialogue, sound effects and music (Goodykoontz & Jacobs, 2014).  They work together to enhance the movie’s experience and sets the mood for a particular scene.

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Dialogue is widely recognized as the words that are said by the characters in the movie.  In many movies the dialogue is one of the more important elements in the movie. It’s more important what’s being said, rather than what’s being seen.  Silence of the Lambs is a psychological thriller that relied heavy on its sophisticated dialogue that especially took place between Clarice and Dr. Lecter, as they introduced us to “quid pro quo”.  In the scene where Dr. Lecter is being housed inside a cage in the middle of the room, as Clarice enters, he greets her with turning to look at her.  They begin to trade secrets about each other, as they go back and forth in their dialogue the camera begins to move closer to their faces giving the feel of intensity and added tension as the scene progresses.  Together with the framing and the dialogue of Dr. Lecter, it creates an added level of intimidation, whereas, Clarice comes off as innocent and wounded.

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Sound effects enrich the sounds and objects on and off-screen without the use of music or dialogue and are used to enhance the scene (Goodykoontz & Jacobs, 2014).  There are several types of sound effects used in The Silence of the Lambs like the footsteps of the guards are heard before they are seen.  The sound of the prison bars as they open or closed.  These are examples of the Foley, where the sounds effects enhance smaller objects such as keys or handcuffs.

The score of the movie was brilliantly composed by Howard Shore featuring the Munich Symphony Orchestra.  Much of the music in Silence of the Lambs is non-diegetic and was classically inspired.  However, there are scenes where the music is diegetic; for example, in the scene where Dr. Lecter is killing the prison guard Bach is playing from a cassette player or when Buffalo Bill is dancing to Goodbye Horses (Garvey, 1988).  During much of the movie there is music that subtly plays in the background.  It gives a tone of eeriness and a feeling of being uneasy.  The somberness of the music helps create an on-the-edge-of-your-seat feeling which lends to an easy identification that is in the horror genre.

Matthias Büdinger (1991) says it best, “You get your feelings from all elements simultaneously, lighting, cinematography, costumes, acting and music.”

 

References:

Garvey, W. (Composer). (1988). Goodbye Horses. [Q. Lazzarus, Performer, & W. Garvey, Conductor]

Goodykoontz, B., & Jacobs, C. P. (2014). Film: From Watching to Seeing, 2nd Ed. San Diego: Bridgepoint Education Inc.

Shore, H. (1991). Howard Shore on The Silence of the Lambs. (M. Büdinger, Interviewer)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Week 2 – Lighting Techniques Used in Silence of the Lambs (1991)

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Title:  Silence of the Lambs

Director:  Jonathan Demme

Cinematography:  Tak Fugimoto

Year:  1991

Actors:  Jodie Foster (Clarice Starling)
Anthony Hopkins (Dr. Hannibal Lecter)
Jame Gumb (Buffalo Bill)

The beginning of the film shows a young FBI trainee, Clarice Starling, running through a training course surrounded by thick fog.  The course is surrounded by trees and due to the low lighting it is obvious early morning.  Much of the film is shot using low-key lighting to create the feel of intimidation and tension.  However, there are moments when Clarice, as the film’s heroine, is cast in brigther lights throughout the film.  This lends itself to how the Director and Cinematographer wants its audience to interpret their characters, good vs. evil.

Much of the Silence of the Lambs is centered on dark, sadistic and evil characters such as Buffalo Bill and Dr. Hannibal Lecter.  The lighting used in the film, or lack thereof, is used to contrast the relationship of good vs. evil (i.e. Starling vs. Dr. Lecter/Buffalo Bill).  The darkness of the movie mimics the darkness of the theme of the movie.  Throughout the movie the camera is positioned using the same angle as the light when Clarice visits Dr. Lecter, this casts dark shadows onto Dr. Lecter, as some say it makes it hard to read the body language of Dr. Lecter making what he will do next hard to predict.  This effect keeps you on the edge of your seat or if you’re like me, your hands over your eyes.

There are few key scenes in the movie where lighting is distinctly part of the scene:  1) three-point lighting is used to light the Dr. Lecter while sitting in his cell.  The lighting is bright and harsh and adds urgency to the scene; 2) the scene in which Starling unknowingly shows up to Buffalo Bill’s house following a lead.  As she enters the house and realizes that he’s the killer, he shuts off all the lights in the house and it becomes pitch dark.  The shot is framed as if you were Buffalo Bill looking through night vision goggles.  You’re able to see Clarice struggle in the darkness.

If the lighting wasn’t as deliberate and obvious, the movie wouldn’t be the psychological thriller film classic it is today.  The lighting adds to the thrill and darkness of the movie’s theme of sadistic psycho-tortuous murder rampages.

Goodykoontz, B., & Jacobs, C. P. (2014). Film: From Watching to Seeing, 2nd Ed. San Diego: Bridgepoint Education Inc.

Week 1 Blog – Shrek

Title:  Shrek

Director:  Andrew Adamson and Vicky Jenson

Year:  2001

Actors:  Mike Myers (as the voice of Shrek)
Eddie Murphy (as the voice of Donkey)
Cameron Diaz (as the voice of Princess Fiona)
John Lithgow (as the voice of Lord Farquaad)

Story:  Shrek is a 2001 animated movie about an ogre and his pesky friend, Donkey, that set out on a “quest” on behalf of Duloc’s evil Lord Farquaad, who must marry a Princess before he can become king.  Shrek made a deal with Lord Farquaad to rescue Princess Fiona from a castle, protected by a fire breathing dragon, in order to rid his swamp of the fairytale creatures Lord Farquaad banished, in this story of love and friendship.

Plot:  Shrek is an ogre that lives quite happily in swamp in solitude, as everyone else is terrified of him.  He ventures out and comes across Donkey being chased by Lord Farquaad’s men, which Shrek scares off.  As he makes his way home, followed by the grateful but annoying Donkey, he discovers that Lord Farquaad has evicted all of the fairy-tale creatures and has forced them to live in his swamp, intruding on Shrek’s peaceful and quiet lifestyle.  He demands to know who sent them there and where he can be found.  Donkey eagerly offers to lead Shrek to Duloc where he can face-off with him.

Meanwhile, Lord Farquaad realizes that the only way he can become King of Duloc is to marry a Princess, he chooses Princess Fiona, who is locked in a castle tower that is being guarded by a fire-breathing dragon. Being that Lord Farquaad is of short stature and a coward, he holds a tournament where the winner will have the “honor” of rescuing the Princess and bringing her back to Duloc for him to marry, effectively  making him King of Duloc. Shrek and Donkey stumble on the tournament and easily defeat the Knights.  He makes a deal with Lord Farquaad that if he successfully rescues Princess Fiona, Farquaad will get rid of all the fairy-tale creatures from his swamp.  Lord Farquaad agrees and Shrek and Donkey take off an adventure.

Once they reach the castle they have to figure out a way to reach the tower without being burned or eaten by the dragon.  The dragon catches Donkey and to his surprise she is a girl dragon, who is lonely and becomes smitten by Donkey’s charm.  This distraction allows for Shrek to get to Fiona and rescue her.  As they barely make it out of the castle, to Fiona’s dismay, her rescuer is an ogre.

The trio proceed on the long trip back to Duloc to the awaiting Lord Farquaad.  Initially, Shrek and Fiona do not like each other but warm up to each other during their journey.  At one point, Fiona insists that they stop to rest. This is because she is hiding a secret that when the sun goes down she turns into an ogre and only a kiss from her true love will undo the curse and reveal her “true” form.  Donkey discovers her secret and urges Fiona to reveal herself to Shrek, but she refuses saying “ogres are ugly and unlovable”.  Shrek overhears this and assumes she’s talking about him.  He immediately turns cold and by the morning, Lord Farquaad arrives to pick up his princess.

During a heated argument, Donkey reveals Fiona’s secret and then they begin to plot a way to stop the marriage of Farquaad and Fiona.  By the time they reach the church it’s too late, Fiona and Farquaad are married.  Shrek tells Fiona she loves him and they kiss which transforms her immediately into an ogre.  Farquaad, disgusted, tries to have her killed, but Donkey comes to the rescue by whistling for his lady friend, the dragon, who bursts through the window and swallows Lord Farquaad whole.

Both ogres, they get married and Shrek, Fiona and Donkey live happily ever after.

Chronology:  The story was told in chronological order, meaning the “events in the movie’s plot follow the same order as they occurred” (Goodykoontz & Jacobs, 2014, Chapter 3.2).  Since this movie is geared towards children, having the story told in this fashion allows for an easier flow and understanding of the events as they occur.

Character Development:  Using chronological storytelling in Shrek allowed its audience watch his transformation from a grumpy, lonely ogre to one with friends and love.  The audience is able to experience Shrek and Donkey going from a dislike and annoyance to best of friends and trusting each other.

Different Style:  If the story had chosen a different presentation style, such as non-linear, meaning it interchanges between the present, future and/or past (Goodykoontz & Jacobs, 2014) it may have been unable to hold onto the attention of the young viewers who often have small attention spans to begin with.  They may have been confused and therefore, uninterested.

Goodykoontz, B., & Jacobs, C. P. (2014). Film: From Watching to Seeing, 2nd Ed. San Diego: Bridgepoint Education Inc.