Filmmaker Jonathan Demme feeds Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter on the set of The Silence of the Lambs.
Filmmaker Jonathan Demme feeds Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter on the set of The Silence of the Lambs.

Surprised and saddened to hear that one of my favourite filmmakers, Jonathan Demme, has passed away. Demme is perhaps best known for his superb adaptation of Thomas Harris’ The Silence of the Lambs (1991), a film that received all five major Academy Awards: Best Film, Best Director, Best Actor (Anthony Hopkins), Best Actress (Jodie Foster) and Best Adapted Screenplay (Ted Tally). His other works include Philadelphia (1993), Married to the Mob (1988), and Stop Making Sense (1984), the genre-bending music documentary about Talking Heads. Demme was not just a supreme talent but a humanitarian.

David Sexton explores the lineage of one of modern literature and film’s most chilling villains in his critical study, The Strange World Of Thomas Harris
Thomas Harris, The Silence of the Lambs
Thomas Harris, The Silence of the Lambs
One of Lecter’s most obvious fictional precursors is Sherlock Holmes and before him, therefore, Poe’s Dupin. Many of Lecter’s observations are pure Holmes in style, if not content. As he tells Clarice: “‘You use Evyan skin cream, and sometimes you wear L’Air du Temps, but not today.'” On their next meeting, he detects a Band-Aid under her clothes.

Compare Holmes on his first meeting with Watson in A Study In Scarlet: “‘You have been in Afghanistan, I perceive.’ ‘How on earth did you know that?’ I asked in astonishment.’ ” When, at their next meeting, Holmes explains his deductions, the amazed Watson says, rightly enough, “You remind me of Edgar Allan Poe’s Dupin. I had no idea that such individuals did exist outside of stories.”
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