The Silence of the Lambs is a 1991 American horror-thriller film directed by Jonathan Demme and starring Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, and Scott Glenn.
This film is basically about an FBI agent trying to find a serial killer. But, there is a second story which was not an actual focus of the film but it says more about an important character. The second story is about none other than the lead character, Clarice Starling. Though we get to see her throughout the film, the movie is all about the two psychotic killers, Hannibal Lector and Buffalo Ben. There is a non focused yet an important story about the FBI trainee, Clarice Starling narrated with casual conversations and subtle visuals.
Character establishment :
The movie opens with a scene showing Clarice climbing up the rocks using a rope in a forest like an atmosphere ALL ALONE. This scene explains her life as a whole. In the later part of the film, we get to know that she had struggles in her past and reached the position in FBI by her own hard work. Her act of self help and struggle eventually got her a rank in the FBI at the end which was also symbolically foreshadowed in the beginning scene. When she climbed the rock, she heard birds flattering their wings and flying which symbolizes a freedom or a freedom from her struggles.
Clarice’s work environment was male-dominated and she had a struggle coping up with it. This was indirectly shown in many scenes with cut through visuals. The perfect example is the scene when she gets into the lift filled with tall men wearing red t shirt. In that particular frame, the director indirectly makes a comparison of Clarice with the other men.
Eventually, Clarice tries to succeed in the male dominant environment. This was clearly shown in the scene when Jack Crawford and Clarice went to investigate a body thrown out by Buffalo Ben. In the beginning of the scene, Jack requests a police officer to talk to him in private as he didn’t want to talk about sex related things in front of a woman.When Jack leaves the room, all the officers were staring at her and she’s having an awkward feeling about that. This scene shows that an inferiority is being imposed on her. After this scene, she requests all the police officers to out of the room in bold voice. Initially, the officers are having a little hesitation and eventually, they left the room later. This shows that she gained an authority and responsibility that no man can neglect or suppress. Even the camera angle in this scene is over the shoulder shot which kept in such a way to show Clarice larger than the officers.
Interrogations that created a conflict in the character :
When Clarice met Lector for the first time, she was surprised,scared and concerned about the interest showed by Lector about her past. In the first interrogation, Lector made some assumptions about her which were actually true.
Lector : You know what you look like to me with you good bag and cheap shoes? you look like a rube. A well scrubbed, hustling rube with a little taste…….and that accent you desperately tried to shed was a pure West Virginia.
In the further interrogations, Lector showed more interest in her. He asked what’s her worst memory. She started telling her past from the death of her father to how she ran away in her interrogations. Lector insisted her to say more details about what happend when she ran away. At that time, she told him about the lamb she desperately tried to rescue from a slaughter house and failed in it. Using this incident, Lector explained from where her motives are coming from and the reason for her nightmares she was experiencing quite often. Lector explains that her desperation to save that lamb was what made her took this Buffalo Ben’s seriously. Lector put forth a question to Clarice stating, “you think if you save the poor Catherine (Lamb in the Ben’s case), you won’t wake up the dark ever again to awful screaming of the lambs?” She couldn’t answer it.
In the Buffalo Ben’s case, Clarice feels desperate to save the abducted girl, Catherine just like she wanted to save the lamb when she was a child. The Buffalo Ben’s victims referring to the Clarice’s lamb was symbolically shown in the scene when Clarice went to one of the victim’s home. We can notice lambs on the window side next to the victim’s picture.
Before the end of the film, Lector wanted to make her realize that his opinions about her lamb and the victims she was concerned about were right. So, he called her and asked ,”Well Clarice, have the lambs stopped screaming?”. Even at this moment, she had no answer for his question.
So, the second story of this film is about how a terrible incident in Clarice’s life became a primary reason and the driving force that made her a great person. The irony is that this noble realization was given by a Psychotic killer.
P.S – Among the Lector’s assumptions about Clarice, the sexual tension between she and her boss, Jack was also the one. Though Clarice genuinely refused it, at the last scene, the director showed a close up shot of Clarice and Jack’s handshake. Jack seemed to give a little pressure in her hand. This scene may justify the Lector’s words about their relationship.