Jonathan Demme, the prolific director of films like Philadelphia and Rachel Getting Married, passed away this morning in New York due to complications related to esophageal cancer. His contributions to filmmaking include a diverse range of critical and financial film and television hits spanning from 1974 right up until his death. Horror fans know him for bringing Dr. Hannibal Lecter to life in one of the most terrifying, memorable, and influential films of the 1990’s: The Silence of the Lambs.
Released in 1991, The Silence of the Lambs is so unique because it was not directed by a horror icon like Wes Craven or John Carpenter. The film’s real charm and the reason it still stands out is because it doesn’t look like a typical horror film. Demme wasn’t in the business of making horror films. Instead, he told the story just like how he would tell any other story in his expert fashion. The result is a character-driven piece which launched Anthony Hopkins’, Jodie Foster’s, and even Ted Levine’s iconic characters into cinema’s permanent hall of fame.
In addition to filmmaking, Demme was also fond of music. As a director, he was particularly focused on blending music with visuals to create feelings and atmosphere (think of the chilling ending of The Silence of the Lambs… the swelling score as Lecter follows an unsuspecting Dr. Chilton through a crowd of people as the credits begin to creep up the screen.). He was a big Neil Young fan, and he directed multiple documentary projects for and about Young.
Demme’s publicist had this to say about his passing:
“Sadly, I can confirm that Jonathan passed away early this morning in his Manhattan apartment, surrounded by his wife, Joanne Howard, and three children. There will be a private family funeral.”
May Jonathan Demme rest in peace, and may his iconic work be discovered and re-discovered by new generations of fans of horror and fans of film alike!