Psychology in Silence of the Lambs
The Silence of the Lambs 1991 Director – Jonathan Demme Writer – Thomas Harris Cinematographer – Tak Fujimoto Jodie Foster – Clarice Starling Anthony Hopkins – Dr. Hannibal Lecter AKA Hannibal the Cannibal Scott Glenn -Jack Crawford Ted Levine -Jame Gumb AKA Buffalo Bill Theme can be defined as “a central insight. ” According to the authors of The Art of Watching Films, a theme in a literary work or film should be universal and should be one that challenges people (Boggs & Petric, 2008). The Silence of the Lambs shows that peoples’ search for peace is universal.
We see characters from all walks of life searching for peace. There is Clarice Starling, an FBI agent in training, Dr. Hannibal Lecter, a brilliant psychiatrist incarcerated for murder and cannibalism, and Jame Gumb, AKA Buffalo Bill, a man driven to murder by his sexual identity crises. Each of these characters, in their own ways, search for peace throughout the film. (Demme, 1991) Clarice Starling, portrayed by Jodie Foster, is seen as the main character. She begins a sort of friendship with Dr.
Hannibal Lecter, portrayed by Anthony Hopkins, hen she is assigned to question him on the Buffalo Bill murder case. The two have much in common because they are both ostracized by society and both are searching for peace. Dr. Lecter is imprisoned and shunned by society for committing acts of cannibalism. Clarice is shunned in her own society because she is a woman in the FBI. We see her strive for peace and acceptance in this predominantly male society. We also see her struggle to find peace with her past. There are two scenes in the film that best depict Clarice’s search for peace. Ebert, 2001) The first scene where we see Clarice struggle to find peace in the world she wishes to inhabit is the one where she and her male boss, Crawford, go to examine the body of one of Buffalo Bill’s victims. Crawford suggests to a male officer that they shouldn’t discuss the crime in front of a woman, Clarice. A close up of Crawford and the officer whispering and staring at Clarice is seen from her perspective. We as viewers see what she sees. We are brought into the film and we feel awkward Just as she does. This is an example of suture.
Suture is the way a film maker draws us in. We, the viewers, become stitched into the fabric of the story’ (University of Wisconsin, 2013). Director Jonathan Demme’s camera techniques compel us to adopt Clarice’s point of view above all others. We are accustomed to seeing things as she would see them. So when the direct angle changes and we are forced to look at Clarice head on in this scene, it us unnerving. As Crawtord and the officer look at ner wit n the eyes ot the audience, we feel the same anxiety she feels while being examined by the men around her.
The next scene where we see Clarice search for peace, is the one in hich she discusses the film’s titular line. She is questioning Dr. Lecter, trying to gain some knowledge that can help her locate Buffalo Bill’s next victim, Catherine Martin. Hannibal agrees to answer the questions, but only if she reveals information about her childhood. Clarice recounts the story of living on a farm and being awakened by awful screaming. When she goes to investigate the noise, she sees lambs being led to slaughter. Her instinct is to free them, but they won’t move.
In vain, she tries to carry one away but it is too heavy for her. She can’t save it. Dr. Lecter says to her; mfou still wake up sometimes, don’t you? You wake up in the dark and hear the screaming of the lambs. ” Clarice admits this is true. He then continues; “And you think if you save poor Catherine, you could make them stop, don’t you? You think if Catherine lives, you won’t wake up in the dark ever again to that awful screaming of the lambs”(Demme, 1991). Clarice claims she doesn’t know and it is possible she truly doesn’t, but we can see in her face that wants it to be true.
We see the pain in her ace and her desire to be released from the screaming and find peace. Director Jonathan Demme lets us connect with the characters by shattering the fourth wall. He positions the camera so Clarice is essentially talking to the audience in extreme close up shots. This technique instills her anguish into the audience. Clarice then becomes more demanding, asking for the killer’s name but before Hannibal can answer Dr. Frederick Chilton informs her it’s time to go. She is nearly dragged out of the room, but breaks free to run back to Hannibal’s cage and retrieve her case files.
The visual style up to this point in the scene has been dark, but when Clarice rushes to the cage, there is light illuminating Hannibal. Clarice running towards this light represents her search for peace. She is hoping the clues left by Dr. Lecter in the case files will enable her to catch the killer, save the kidnapped girl, and stop the lambs from screaming. The Silence of the Lambs is traditionally considered a horror film. However, it is more than that. It is a great reference to sociology because it touches on so many topics important to people (Kim, 2010).
Throughout the movie we see motifs of transformation and gender roles, but it is the theme of searching for peace that really speaks to us. This type of film serves the purpose of making us look inward. It forces us to identify our fears and what we are willing to do in order to find our own peace in the end. The theme is evident in the writing, but it is the vision, the use of dark and light, and camera techniques of director Jonathan Demme that truly bring it to focus. Reterences (2013). What is Suture? University of Wisconsin.