Tuesday, September 15, 2009

When art goes to the movies: The silence of the lambs

Hannibal Lecter famously ends his conversation with Clarice Starling in The Silence of the Lambs by announcing he is ”having an old friend for dinner.” We all knew what that meant. So, how to make a psychopathic monster even part way human? By art, of course. Hannibal the Cannibal was also Lecter the sketcher.

Clarice: Did you do all these drawings, Doctor?
Hannibal: Ah. That is the Duomo seen from the Belvedere. Do you know Florence?
Clarice: All that detail just from memory, sir?
Hannibal: Memory, Agent Starling, is what I have instead of a view.

Later in the movie Lecter sketches Clarice with a lamb based no doubt on an Italianate Virgin Mary and child. Although the lamb’s head has more than a suggestion of a demented dog, no one is claiming H as a master draftsman.

Art also played a part in the promotion of the movie with the poster and DVD cover calling on Salvador Dali and Phillipe Halsman’s photograph of him. In voluptate mors portrays Dali with a skull created from the entwined bodies of seven naked women. Based on a Dali sketch, the skull references the patterning on the back of the Asian Death’s-Head moth (Acherontia styx) and that is exactly what the serial killer Buffalo Bill of the movie inserted into the throats of his victims in the form of a pupae. We read somewhere that it was the director of the movie (Jonathan Demme) who came up with the idea of using a Dali skull on the back of the moth to cover Jodie Foster’s mouth. The poster won best film poster "of the past 35 years" at the 2006 Key Art Awards.And here as a special added bonus a link to the best moth site ever by a New Zealand artist.
Images: Top The silence of the lambs poster and the Halsman photograph. Middle, In voluptate mors used in the poster for The silence of the lambs and the Death's -Head moth. Bottom, Hannibal H's drawing of Clarice.