The Silence of the Lambs (Film Analysis)

@Greg raised a question in the Train to Busan thread about the difference between Universe and Physics as an OS Domain. He specifically brought up Silence of the Lambs as an example.

Looking at the official analysis left me scratching my head.

Is the goal really about making progress in catching Buffalo Bill, or is it about actually catching him?

Is the consequence that Buffalo Bill will be able to act on his impulses, or that he’ll finish his suit and his transformation?

Are Clarice’s problems stemming from what she’s doing, or the fact that she’s a rookie and a woman trying to be taken seriously in the FBI.

Is the relationship between Clarice and Lecter really about their attitudes toward human beings, or about the cat and mouse mind games they play with each other?

Isn’t Hannibal Lecter’s influence entirely about him getting in her head, making her remember her childhood, and confront her fears and insecurities?

Pretty much everything seems off to me, but it’s more than possible that I’m just not seeing it.

So, in the spirit of accuracy and furthering our understanding, I’d like to open this thread for discussion about the official storyform of Silence of the Lambs.


The Fugitive: When a Situation isn’t a Situation

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Ha! I was totally thinking of that article. :grin:

Apologizes in advance for adding another movie to your watch list.

I’m planning on watching this again for more examples, but I’ll throw out my arguments for the throughlines.

OS Physics
I could kind of see “killer on the loose”, but this doesn’t feel like the Fugitive where an innocent man has been wrongfully accused to clear his name or Shawshank where everyone is stuck in the prison under the evil Warden’s rule. Buffalo Bill is a free man, but the conflict is that he is actively stalking, kidnapping, killing, skinning, constructing a suit out of skin, and they can’t stop him.

Clarice Starling Universe
She’s a cadet, she’s inexperienced, a woman in a man’s world. She wants to make it in the FBI. Her past haunts her and drives her to want to protect people. The scene in the funeral home where are the men are oogling her and Crawford acts dismissive towards her in front of everyone sticks out.

Hannibal Lecter Mind
He’s all about digging into her subconscious, making her remember her father’s funeral and her summer with the lambs. He makes her nervous and bullies her (the fava beans speech), and belittles her hopes and dreams with his dismissive attitude. By the end, his attitude about her has changed as he sees the world as a better place with her in it.

Also, he’s very mannered and cultured, which makes Clarice feel like the poor, white-trash girl image she’s trying escape from. He has very strict opinions about manners. He gets Multiple Miggs to kill himself after Miggs is “rude” to Clarice. :smile:

RS Psychology

The entire relationship feels like Mentor/Mentee growing becoming an Unlikely Friendship/Respect. Their whole relationship is predicated on putting together the profile, trying to conceive of what this killer is like and they grow closer as he pushes her to put together the pieces. A big moment that pushes the relationship apart is when Clarice lies to him about his transfer, in an effort to manipulate him.


I’ll be interested to follow this conversation.

I have thought that Silence of the Lambs has a different feel from the more conventional arrangement of OS Physics, MC Universe, etc.

But you make some good points. Plugging it in, I could maybe see OS: Approach/Consider/Reconsider/Logic/Feeling.

That gives you an RS of Rationalization/Help/Hinder/Logic/Feeling which sounds pretty good, actually.

I might need to watch it again though.

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Definitely need to rewatch again too. I’ve watched it a bunch over the years though.

Another thought on Clarice. All those close-up shots where the characters look directly into the lens while talking to Clarice.

They’re trying to make you feel super uncomfortable and like you don’t belong, which is how Clarice feels.

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In the below article Jim suggests the OS Concern / Goal is related to the question:
Will Clarice be able to stem the tide of Buffalo Bill’s murderous rampage?

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Fair. That’s kind of predicated on the official analysis being correct though, right?

To me, a guy murdering people and taking their skin, the Senator’s daughter being kidnapped and Hannibal Lecter busting out of jail all seem more like activities.

Yeah, they’re not making progress in the investigation, but the problem there is that he’ll continue killing people.

Buffalo Bill doesn’t seems as concerned with the progress on his suit so much as getting all the pieces and completing it.

Does that make sense?

I haven’t seen it since I was a teenager. It must have creeped me out, since I’ve never had a desire to see it again; but that probably means I would really enjoy it now! Maybe I’ll try to rewatch, if I can find time.

You make some convincing arguments about throughline domains. In my memory it definitely does not feel like an Obtaining movie though!

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Let me know if you do and what you think. It’s one of my favorites. :smiley:

Something to consider is that Bill isn’t running around killing people during the story. He doesn’t actually kill anyone during the movie. I don’t know if that necessarily changes anything.

Iirc, the opening shots of the movie are of newspaper headlines about Wild Bill. This seems to set up the out of wack Universe the story takes place in.

This may not be the right way to look at it, bit on a smaller level many characters are concerned with with their own personal situations. Wild Bill takes issue with his body and Lector with his surroundings, and both of those situations lead to conflict in the story. It could be that Clarice being a woman in the FBI is another such example and is an element of the OS.

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He is definitely active. They find a new body around the one quarter mark, which is also roughly when he kidnaps Catherine, the Senator’s daughter. Not saying that that makes it a Physics story all by itself though. That’s where the discussion is interesting. :slight_smile:

Right. The official analysis points to the headline about Buffalo Bill’s fifth victim as the initial driver.

I definitely hear that argument, and I’ve thought about that myself. The problem I have is when you look at all four throughlines. Clarice in Physics just seems totally wrong. There’s a lot of physics when it comes to her as Protagonist in OS, but I don’t see any of her personal issues as stemming from Physics. If you took her out of this movie and dropped her into another, she’d still be a female Cadet in an almost exclusively male organization from a poor southern family with a troubled past driving her.

Just a few examples from the beginning of the movie of stuff only Clarice deals with:

  • Clarice is immediately propositioned by Dr. Chilton
  • Chilton dismisses her as an agent by suggesting she’s some bimbo Jack Crawford is using to dangle in front of Lecter.
  • Mutliple Miggs call out to her that he can smell her… ahem… womanhood
  • Lecter immediately sees through her and points out that she’s just a cadet
  • “You know what you look like to me, with your good bag and your cheap shoes? You look like a rube. A well scrubbed, hustling rube with a little taste. Good nutrition has given you some length of bone, but you’re not more than one generation from poor white trash, are you, Agent Starling? And that accent you’ve tried so desperately to shed? Pure West Virginia. What’s your father, dear? Is he a coal miner? Does he stink of the lamp? How quickly the boys found you… all those tedious sticky fumblings in the back seats of cars… while you could only dream of getting out… getting anywhere… getting all the way to the FBI.”
  • On her way out Multiple Miggs surprises her with a well tossed “present” to the face.
  • As she gets to her car, she has a flashback to her father, who was killed and leaving her an orphan.

That’s just in the first act. :smile:

Just to be clear… I’m not saying he isn’t active. I’m saying none of his murders occur during the story. Iirc, the body they find is specifically not his most recent victim, though I could be confusing that with another movie.

I didn’t think you were. Bad phrasing on my part.

I watched it again last night. The body they find is his most recent victim. They estimate she’s been dead for roughly a week.

All the victims are found in order except the first because Buffalo Bill weighted the body before dumping it in the river. This makes the FBI think the victims are random.

But with Hannibal’s help, Clarice realizes they aren’t random at all and that Buffalo Bill must have personally known his first victim. Her follow up on the first victim leads her, unknowingly, into Buffalo Bill’s house.

This must have been what I was thinking of. Thanks.

Unfortunately, I don’t have access to the movie right now.

No problem. I understand it’s probably not a movie most people want to watch a lot. :smile: My mom was big on true crime and John Douglas books so I’ve seen it more than most people.

This shot stood out to me when watching it again.


7 posts were split to a new topic: The Silence of the Lambs (Book Analysis)

Moved these to a different thread because the book is not the film (different storyforms).

In regards to everything about her being in Universe (including the image above), I remember thinking the same thing, that the storyform in Story Expert was off, but as I recall that thread is not carried through the rest of the film - the emphasis is more on her ability to do these things, rather than the fact she is a woman.

I can watch it again to verify, but seeing as how this is Thanksgiving–a holiday devoted to eating–can I do it next week?


Absolutely, no rush at all. My intention was just to discuss, not to force you to watch the movie. :smile: I’d be interested in your two cents though.

I think there’s a really interesting discussion to be had about Physics vs Universe.

Enjoy your Thanksgiving!


Yeah, no rush at all.

Thanksgiving here in my house (even though I’m in London, I still celebrate with my American friends) is absolute priority too.