I had the pleasure, on Wednesday evening, of attending the Jameson Cult Film Club screening of The Silence of the Lambs. Any excuse to see Jonathan Demme’s masterpiece is worth taking up, but this was a wonderful night for two reasons. The first is that fact that although I am a huge fan of the film, I had never seen it before on a big screen. I’d only ever seen it on home media. The second reason is, as you might expect, that the guys and girls at the Jameson Cult Film Club really surpassed themselves in creating a powerfully immersive experience.
In fact, the group actually organised two separate screenings of the event to meet demand, a very classy move if you ask me. Myself and the better half attended the second screening, and it was very impressive. At this point, it’s easy to take all the care and attention that goes into these things for granted, but the production staff put an insane amount of care and detail into the screenings. They literally transformed the Custom House into the Baltimore State Forensic Hospital from the film.
Atmosphere has always been something that the team have done quite well, and their work here was exemplary. You literally repeated Clarice’s walk into the cell block – passing through the upper levels of the hospital to the more secure wing. (In the security foyer, there was even a gun rack and a rather eerie recording of Barney outlining the rules.) From there, the walk to the screening area included a walk along the cell block, including actors providing their own interpretations of “multiple” Miggs and other inmates. And there, at the end, was Lecter himself.
I don’t know how they handle the casting for these events, but the actor playing Lecter was perfect. He looked just like Anthony Hopkins, but he also effortless managed the pose. On walking in, like Clarice, the audience finds him waiting – standing, staring. The actor would appear on stage once or twice during the film, to provide the wonderful safety announcement (“you can only dream of getting out … getting anywhere … getting all the way to the toilets… you’ll find them on the right…”) and also at the end, disappearing into the crowd.
Once inside, Clarice herself was jogging around the venue, navigating her own obstacle course. When the time came to herd the audience to their seats, we were guided through Memphis Police Department blockades (a nice, subtle touch) and even had to walk through a replica of Lecter’s iconic cage in the centre of the room. The cage itself was complete with scribbled notes and even a nice vanity curtain. I didn’t spot any lamb chops, though.
Demme’s film is a surprisingly understated affair. With the exception of the moments where the incredible soundtrack threatens to literally overwhelm the audience, Demme tends to keep things more restrained. That’s why the moments tend to stick out. Demme knows, as a director, that he doesn’t have to sensationalise things like Bill’s freaky naked dance, and so he just records interactions like a documentary. Characters frequently seem to be addressing the camera, which is kept at eye-level. That’s what makes the film so powerful – it doesn’t feel like Demme is toying with his audience. He’s simply guiding us through a compelling and powerful narrative with two sensational performances.
Befitting that sort of approach, the team did an excellent job keeping the activities during the film relatively low-key. It made the moments – like the unveiling of Lecter’s grim work of art on his cell, or the release of Bill’s moths over an unsuspecting crowd – all the more powerful. The audience jumped and screamed, which was fantastic. At their best, these moments of reaching beyond the fourth wall serve to enhance what’s happening on-screen, and I really think that the crew here did an excellent job in picking the moments to bring to life – and the moments that they’d allow to remain on-screen.
This was the first time my better half had seen the film, and it was the first time I’d seen it on the big screen. Demme’s wonderfully intimate cinematography (Clarice and Lecter staring at one another) looks stunningly powerful when projected on to a massive screen. I assume that the broadcast was from the blu ray edition of the movie – it goes almost without saying that the picture looked amazing. However, what was really astounding was the audio quality. It’s strange how much I notice the difference in audio quality, but the film has literally never sounded better, thanks to the effort of the team in setting up the venue and the quality of the film itself.
It really was a wonderful night, and the latest in a long line of successes. The Jameson Cult Film Club have done some astonishing work, and I think that any Irish cinephile is lucky to have a group like that working here. If you haven’t already signed up, I wholeheartedly recommend it. The tickets are free, and it’s just a wonderful experience and beautiful celebration of classic cinema. You can sign up here.
This reminds me, I do need to dig in The Silence of the Lambs again. It’s just a great piece of movie-making.
If you want to have a look at some of the other Jameson Cult Film Club Screenings, feel free to follow the links below:
Filed under: Movies Tagged: | anthony hopkins, arts, Clarice, Clarice Starling, Demme, film, hannibal lecter, jameson cult film club, jodie foster, Lecter, Memphis Police Department, Movie, Silence of the Lamb