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Life Through the Lens: Your past does not have to define your present

“Well, Clarice — have the lambs stopped screaming?”

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Having already lost her mother at a young age, the child quickly became a “daddy’s girl.” She doted on and idolized that man. When his job as a small-town-sheriff got him killed, the child was left with nothing. Family, home, security … gone.

She was sent to live with distant relatives on a sheep ranch but quickly found this place unnerving. The days were pleasant enough, what with all the cuddly animals and whatnot, but the nights … those sounds! She left the safety of her room one night to investigate the screaming sounds. What she found was too much for her little brain to comprehend: those same cuddly animals that she embraced in the light of day were being slaughtered under the cover of darkness. The screams and cries urged her to action.

She grabbed one helpless little-lamb and took off. She knew that anywhere was better than there. After a few miles, her tiny legs were aching, her arms were tired, and the adventure had proven too much. The lamb was taken back to the ranch (for another day’s slaughter) and the child off to an orphanage.

This fleeting experience has become a lasting-nightmare. Each night brings with it the echo of that sound: the screaming of the lambs! No amount of therapy, schooling, accolades, or strength can stop that reminder. The reminder of help halted, of assistance arrested, of virtue so suddenly and rudely vanished. The lamb is gone, but the loss is new every night.

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“The Silence of the Lambs” — A serial killer called Buffalo Bill has been abducting, killing, and skinning girls for months. His patterns are random. His motives are clouded. His identity is totally unknown. In a desperate attempt to capture and stop this man, the FBI is enlisting the help of a convicted serial killer they have in custody. With his brain and experience, he may shed a light on a subject that is utterly dark. They send a young cadet, Clarice Starling, in to profile and question the convict, Dr. Hannibal Lecter.

As she gets closer to the answer, she becomes closer to Dr. Lecter and, subsequently, closer to herself. She discovers some secrets hidden deep in her psyche. Dr. Lecter refuses to allow her to solve this case without solving something buried within herself. Eventually … all is well, and Dr. Lecter has a “friend for dinner.”

Clarice’s struggle is one we all face: the past haunts our present and dims our future. Her lesson is one for us, as well: confront and continue! Clarice spent her life building a defense for something that happened to her years and years ago. The sound of the lambs inhabits Clarice’s dreams. The vision of the innocent spots her vision. The memory of loss and helplessness seems to drive her. She is looking for resolution — for an end to the screaming of her past.

Your past does not define you. Your mistakes do not define you. Your failures do not define you. Your struggles do not define you. Your loss and grief do not define you. Your scars do not define you. Instead, let your past encourage, teach, redirect, and inspire growth and change. Do not let your screaming lambs keep you up at night.

This film is one of only three films ever to win the big-five Oscars: picture, director, actor, actress, and screenplay. What does that mean, you ask? It is as close to a perfect movie as you can find! It is immaculately directed by Jonathan Demme; his approach is mesmerizing and his uncomfortable-closeness is haunting. It is acted to perfection by Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins. Their chemistry is extraordinary — each of their shared scenes is a masterpiece itself. Individually, they each carry their intricate characters with sincerity and strength. Hopkins’s portrayal of Dr. Lecter is one of cinema’s greatest showpieces … you will not soon forget it … even with the help of regular therapy…

The film is a work of art. It is beyond genre and beyond compare. It is a textbook example on how to do … everything. From the technique to the execution to the narrative arch to the darn-right-creepy-feelings, this movie will affect and inspire you!

“The Silence of the Lambs” turns 30 on Feb. 14. Woo your lover with this Valentine’s Day massacre masterpiece.

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REPORT CARD: The Silence of the Lambs

Grade: A+

Comment: Movies at their finest

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