I ended up doing this every night for about a month.
(Granted, people seem split on what aspect of this is more horrifying--the fact that I watched The Silence of the Lamb every night for weeks, the fact that I ate McDonald's or Taco Bell with similar regularity, or the fact that I did both these things at the same time. But I digress.)
Even to this day, I literally cannot believe how good this movie is. That's not meant to be hyperbole, you know--it's just an accurate description of how I feel about this film. Watching it today, I found myself near tears twice, not even by anything particularly heart-wrenching or tear-jerking, but just by how well the film portrays a world that is thoroughly sad, sad down to the air and the water and the soil. If there's a more effective depiction of the horror of living on film than this one, I've yet to see it.
My guess is that a plot recap is not necessary, so I'll just say that this movie is about how miserable it is to be a woman in a man's world. No, honestly, listen: Watch the way Demme and his cinematographer, Tak Fujimoto (who also worked on Shyamalan's The Sixth Sense and Signs) frame the close-ups of the men who come in contact with Clarice: Agent Crawford, Dr. Chilton, Barney the guard, her fellow agents during combat training, the cops at the funeral parlor, the SWAT team lieutenant, and especially Hannibal Lecter himself--they all stare directly into the camera, making the viewer as aware of the power of their gazes as is Clarice herself. Eyes are weapons in this world; witness the night-vision goggles that give Buffalo Bill both a practical advantage and a psychological feeling of super-poweredness, goggles that are employed in one of the most terrifying audience-identification sequences since Halloween, or even Psycho. The threatening nature of the looks Clarice receives are brought home when compared to the gazes she does not find threatening: of all the looking-directly-into-the-camera/at-Clarice closeups we see, only her friend Ardelia (a woman) is stared directly back at by Clarice herself. They're on the same level, and we as the viewers are permitted to join them as, in their carved-out safe haven (Clarice is even wearing pajamas), they unravel the clue that cracks the case. There's also the two goofy entymologists Clarice comes to for help--like many of the other men in the film, they clearly desire her, one even going so far as to admit he's hitting on her, but this time Clarice takes it in stride. The explanation is visible: one wears coke-bottle glasses, and the other has a lazy eye. Their threat is thereby neutered. After all, as Dr. Lecter points out in his explanation of Buffalo Bill's pathology, he kills because he covets, and "we covet what we see." Seeing is not believing--it is destroying.