Some insights, some shocks... and some missing pieces
This Page to Screen episode (featured in the Criterion Collection Blu-ray and I believe an earlier DVD release) provides some of the insights you'd hope to get in some great bonus material. It recounts much of the history of the pre-production and casting in particular; but one of the highlights is the rather shocking revelation of how Silence was initially shot as a comedy, and how Jonathan Demme kept littering various scenes with sick and juvenile jokes. Jodie Foster recounts gritting her teeth and shaking her head during production, while fans of the suspenseful and compelling final film reel in shock at hearing about this. Those jokes were cut, thankfully, but one has to wonder how Jonathan Demme Forrest Gump'd his way into a great film.
That miracle of having a great film at the end is also more baffling considering the source material- the novel's writing quality is actually pretty poor. But in this documentary, they talk about it as if it's an unparalleled masterpiece, the greatest work of American literature since Edgar Allen Poe. Another thing conspicuous for its absence- any mention of the casting of Ted Levine. He's never acknowledged, like he was never there.
Also, Page to Screen addresses the LGBT controversy about the film and dubiously state the novel's explanation that Gumb isn't a real transsexual was left out of the film. In fact, it is said in the film, though its treatment of Gumb's background is kept more subtle than the novel's ham handed explanations.
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