I brought up 'Silence of the Lambs' in my post about the effects of sound on film. Tonight I caught 'Red Dragon', the prequel to 'Silence of the Lambs' and began to notice the difference between a great film and an 'ok' film. I think Jonathan Demme's 'Silence of the Lamb's' is a textbook example of filmmaking. Everything came together perfectly for the film - writing, casting, sound, cinematography, art direction, wardrobe and music, all under the superb direction of Jonathan Demme.
Red Dragon sees the return of the writer Ted Tally and actor Anthony Hopkins who played Hannibal Lector in 'Silence of the Lambs'. These two talents are not enough to elevate this picture to the original.
The first thing that stands out is the miscast of Edward Norton. Norton is a terrific actor but the lead role demanded an older and more experienced FBI agent and Norton looks younger than Jodi Foster did when she played the 'student' in the original. Sometimes you can get away with this reversal but it works against this film. They really needed to get a more mature actor to play the role.
The second thing is the films soundtrack. Where 'Silence of the Lambs' was textured and creepy, 'Red Dragon' is overstated and bombastic. That subtle tension that wouldn't let up in 'Silence of the Lambs' is replaced by a more obvious horror soundtrack that sacrifices the creepy for overwrought jolts.
Great films tend to have a great mixture of all elements - they are not made in a vacuum. Casting isn't something that is talked about much but it is something that can push a film into becoming a classic. The original 'Red Dragon' was made by Michael Mann as 'Manhunter'. Lector was played by Brian Cox and he did an admirable job but Hopkins brought the role to an entirely new level. Sure, 'Silence of the Lambs' had some hokey bits but overall the film is a masterpiece of macabre fiction.
For me, it goes to show you how important the crew is to the director and how important the director is to the crew. Demme benefits from a great crew and exquisite casting and the film benefits from his abilities to use those people.