As many of my friends and family would know, I have a terrible memory. My mum has accused me of “manufacturing memories”, my only defense being that without my brain concocting memories out of thin air I would probably have none at all.
On a rare occasion, my dodgy memory is actually a blessing in disguise. It allows me to re-read books and re-watch movies with all the wonder and suspense of a first viewing. Most of the time, however, having a dodgy memory is a real pain in the butt.
To get around this frustrating problem, I rely almost exclusively on my calendar and written notes to make sure I turn up where I need to be and don’t miss any important birthdays.
Unfortunately, even this strategy is not fail-safe… as I very recently discovered thanks to ‘The Silence of the Lambs’.
Early on in my imdb Top 100 movie watching challenge, I created a list of all the top 100 movies, marking off those I had already seen and providing them with their “pumpkin” rating out of ten (incidentally, for those of you wondering why I rank by pumpkins, it’s to do with me turning into a pumpkin on my thirtieth birthday… but I digress).
Rating the movies – in some cases over a decade since I watched them – proved to be rather challenging. I vaguely recalled watching ‘The Silence of the Lambs’ on TV sometime back in the nineties, and I rated it – according to my failing memory – a 7.
At the time I rated it I could remember very little about the film except the feeling that the censors must have violently hacked away at the film before airing it on TV, as all these tales of flaying and and wearing victims surely couldn’t have otherwise escaped my notice (particularly since flaying is my second most horrifying mode of murder right after the good old axe).
With Andy and I both suffering serious quality film deprivation in recent months (thanks to a dwindling list), we got to talking about ‘The Silence of the Lambs’. I confessed that I recalled very little about it, and bemoaned the fact that I had probably missed out on some of the juiciest parts all thanks to the censor. We agreed to watch it again.
Here’s where things start to get weird, and I’m going to have to ask you to all don your FBI detective caps for a moment and help me solve the mystery…
We started watching the film and it became immediately apparent that there were holes in my memory. Not little holes, really huge gaping holes. For example, I had no idea that the movie featured not one, but two villains (Hannibal Lecter and Buffalo Bill), I remembered little of the “lotion in the basket” scene, I could only vaguely recall the significance of the moths, and I had no recollection whatsoever of the origin of the title ‘The Silence of the Lambs’.
It puts the lotion in the basket.
Meanwhile, I remembered really specific things, like Jodie Foster’s exquisitely blow-dried bob. I remembered the high-pitched barking of Precious and I very clearly remembered the “chianti and fava beans” line (mostly thanks to a bizarre connection between that line and David Bowie, red creaming soda, and a certain bus trip to Central Australia). I remembered the “getting into the van” scene and I also, for some strange reason, remembered a very specific scene where Jodie Foster leaves the psychiatric facility and walks up some stairs.
What the hell?!
Even now it remains a mystery – even to me – whether I really had seen this film before.
I thought it particularly odd that I should forget some of the more violent aspects of the film, but in reading about it later I discovered that it encountered a number of dramas with the Aussie censors, so it doesn’t seem out of the question that I should only see some horribly PC version when watching it on TV.
Thanks probably in large part to my holey memory, the film was utterly compelling from start to finish. Apparently it’s the only horror film to ever win a Best Picture Oscar, and it’s easy to see why. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such violence paired with such respect for the art of storytelling.
I read up further about it and discovered that the characters of Jame Gumb (aka Buffalo Bill), Leatherface of ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ and Norman Bates of ‘Psycho’ fame are all based on the real-life Wisconsin-based killer, Ed Gein (head over to Wikipedia for an interesting read if you dare). Anthony Hopkins recently completed the ‘Psycho’ loop by playing the eponymous ‘Hitchcock’ (somewhat gratingly, in my opinion).
More interesting still, at least to me (a Dali fan), the skull pattern on the movie poster moth’s back depicts Salvador Dalí’s ‘In Voluptas Mors’ (a picture of seven naked women made to look like a human skull – quite appropriate, given the subject matter of the film). Slightly less artistically, though in similarly poor taste, the “moth cocoon” found in one of the victim’s throats was apparently made up of mushed up gummy bears and tootsie rolls.
Since watching (or re-watching?) ‘The Silence of the Lambs’, I have also seen ‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’. I can’t decide which “Precious” is my favourite but, if I may take a complete tangent, Gollum and his “Precious” scene completely saved ‘The Hobbit’ (even if I do resent Andy comparing me to Gollum after watching me frantically searching for my misplaced engagement ring that very morning).
Unfortunately, I do not have the resources of a fully-staffed FBI squad to solve the mystery of whether I’d ever seen this movie before. I feel like I couldn’t possibly have seen it, and yet I specifically remember sitting down in front of the TV to watch it.
I may not ever find the answer to the mystery, but I do know this: If there’s one thing Americans need more than gun control, it’s basement control.
10 (revised) pumpkins.
What do you think? Did I see, and forget, the movie after two decades, or did I “manufacture the memory” of watching it in the first place?