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The Silence of the Lambs

Released in 1990, "The Silence of the Lambs" is one of the defining films of 20th-century American cinema. Adapted from the Thomas Harris novel and directed by Jonathan Demme, its central characters, Clarice Starling and Hannibal Lecter, have become contemporary icons. Jodie Foster plays Starling, a rookie FBI agent on the trail of "Buffalo Bill", a serial killer who flays his victims. Anthony Hopkins plays Lecter, the psychopathic former psychiatrist whom Starling consults about Bill's identity. With its pairing of a perverse, invasive anti-hero and a questing, self-searching heroine, "The Silence of the Lambs" is a narrative of pursuit at several levels. In this study Yvonne Tasker explores the way the film weaves together gothic, horror and thriller conventions to generate both a distinctive variation on the cinematic portrayal of insanity and crime, and a fascinating intervention in the sexual politics of genre. She identifies the film as a key reference-point for tracking the 90s obsession with police procedure and serial killing, analyzing its key themes of reason and madness, identity and belonging, aspiration and transformation.
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About the Author

Yvonne Tasker is Senior Lecturer in Film Studies at the University of East Anglia. She is the author of Working Girls: Gender and Sexuality in Popular Cinema (1998) and Spectacular Bodies: Gender, Genre and the Action Cinema (1983).

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