Mid-February 1991 is a time well-remembered by me. A thoughtful time for me as an intense high school student (junior year, by the way); also my first full year of being old enough and car-experienced enough to go to R-rated movies on my own. I didn't in fact get to see Lambs until April 1991 -- I saw it a second time that June -- but I was very aware of the film, and of how it impressed people. Nearly a full year later, it won its wonderful slew of Oscars: Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay (Ted Tally), Best Film Editing, Best Sound, Best Actress Jodie Foster, Best Actor Anthony Hopkins, and Best Director Jonathan Demme. Demme's 3-minute, 34-second stammering, laughing-fit acceptance speech is, for me, an amazing moment of Oh My God I Did Not Expect That At ALL; I expect that were I ever to win a similar award, I'd react similarly.
It's beautiful; it's perverse (celebrated by its being released by special effort on Valentine's Day); and it's humane. It remains maybe my favorite horror film -- yes, it is a horror film, and I don't like people taking the piss out of its achievements as horror by calling it a thriller or a drama, just because they find those labels more palatable -- because of how well it pulls off that balancing act. There's beauty even in a fatal beating (watch how Lecter moves his upper body, almost ballet-like, as he attacks an off-camera guard). An anecdote I didn't know until now was that Demme wanted Hopkins for the role because of his role as Dr. Treves in David Lynch's film of The Elephant Man. When Hopkins pointed out "But Dr. Treves was a good man," Demme replied, "So is Lecter. He is a good man, too. Just trapped in an insane mind." That is a thoughtful way to sum up Lecter's complexity. That also makes me think of the quite large number of people who said after this film that they hoped to have psychiatrists as understanding as Lecter -- usually not adding that they'd prefer such an understanding psychiatrist not to eat them.
Howard Shore's music -- lush, emotional, almost subterranean at times -- seared itself into my mind; I stopped at a record store on the way home from that first viewing to buy the soundtrack. And then avoided listening to the last two tracks because I knew they were from the part of the movie I didn't actually manage to see that first time. (That's another story, and come to think of it, I should've not listened to the third-to-last track, also. But somehow that track, "The Moth," even though it was for a part of the film I hadn't seen, seemed a good cliff-hanger-y piece of music to stop at.)
I could go on, but I won't (unless this prompts questions in comments). I'll give you one more sign of my fondness for this film: Near its release, Premiere Magazine ran three pages of ads for the film. Those three pages were hung above my bed for the rest of my high school life.