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Shot in 1991, The Silence of the Lambs is a film about a convicted serial killer, who is also a diabolically intelligent psychoanalyst. His well-known habit of feeding on the parts of his slain victims gives him the nickname Hannibal the Cannibal. Clarice Starling, an FBI trainee, procures his assistance in pursuing another serial killer nicknamed Buffalo Bill, as he is infamous for skinning female victims. The movie offers much to its audience who have outgrown the normal horror genre. The Silence of the Lambs has been considered to fit in the genre of thriller movies suitable for viewing by the restricted audience. It is recommended only for the mature audience. This is because the movie offers a combination of crime and horror elements, thereby making it unsuitable for children or vulnerable persons. It is not as disgusting and offensive as the other horror movies, but those who are involved have much higher credentials and production values that are mostly expected from a horror glance. The Silence of the Lambs brings out a clear illustration of the criminal mind and outline using systematic criminal investigative skills in offender profiling and tracking.
In 1981, Lecter was presented in the thriller novel named Red Dragon as a criminological psychiatrist and a cannibal serial murderer. Lecter is portrayed as one of the adversaries in The Silence of the Lambs, after the two serial murders in the two novels. Hannibal, the 3rd novel, portrays Lecter as a protagonist. Lecter also explores his juvenile and grows into a serial killer in the 4th novel, where his character is presented as the antihero. Dr. Chilton, who is a Lecter’s keeper, alleges that Lecter is a pure sociopath. Lecter is also known for giving false information to psychiatrists and intentionally giving fraudulent and mocking responses on personality tests.
The film contains three plot lines. These are the psycho thriller, the horror genre, and the police and crime drama. The psycho thriller emanates from the strain between Lecter and Dr. Chilton, the prison psychoanalyst, and all others who display discourtesy, the most hated trait by Lecter. The criminal drama begins by the search of the serial murderer, Buffalo Bill, by Starling. The horror genre revolves around the tension between Lecter and Starling. Starling is stalked by Hannibal with a psychologically piercing thoroughness and ogling intimacy that succeeds in a form of a cerebral rape. The tension existing between Lecter and Starling is heightened by the fact that, correct to the horror model, Starling has to accept the danger of this rape. This is what is required for the undertaking in which she has involved herself.
The Silence of the Lambs concerns Starling, an FBI student, who is hired in the investigation of Buffalo Bill, an active serial murderer. In the hope of obtaining information on the identity of Bill, Starling goes to meet Dr. Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lecter. Lecter is confined in maximum security asylum for killing and feeding on his own victims. He is a brilliant, very resourceful, and also very dangerous person. Lecter, however, is refreshed by the honesty of Starling and her originality. He discloses clues to her, leading Starling to the identity of Bill, despite playing mind games with her.
Dr. Crawford, an FBI agent, warns Starling not to give Lecter any personal data. Dr. Crawford is focused foundationally on finding out more about the serial murderer, Buffalo Bill. This forces Crawford to seek help from Lecter. Dr. Crawford, however, uses Clarice Starling to hold a meeting with Lecter regarding information about Buffalo Bill. The data acquired from Lecter results in the pursuit of James Gumb. Starling’s employment of Lecter’s skills and criminal mind is also a brilliant means of ensuring accuracy in her investigations. It is through the out-dated address and the discovery of the probability that Gumb knew Fredrica, his first victim, that Starling decides to conduct probes on the people that were close to Fredrica. These interviews would provide data on how to link the murder to the murderer’s residence. These interviews result in Gumb’s house being discovered. Such an investigative procedure employed by Starling leads her straight to Gumb and the rescue of his next victim.
Lecter’s feature in the film portrays him as a person who is brilliant intellectually, with a polished taste in music, art and cuisine, and also the one who is cultured and classy. He speaks different languages and has a good education. He is regularly shown preparing decadent meals from the bodies of his victims. The most known illustration is his admission that he once fed on the liver of a census taker with nice Chianti and fava beans. He cannot stand rudeness, and he regularly murders people with bad manners.
In the film, Lecter is further defined with the help of the eyes of Starling. Her eyes are termed as small and smooth, and she sees her own strength in her hands and arms. Lecter's left hand is also shown to have a replicated middle finger. He has small eyes and a strong smell sense. In the movie, Lecter identifies Starling by the use of a window made of plate glass, and the type of fragrance worn by her the previous day. Before his arrest and incarceration, Lecter was a member of the social elite in Maryland, and also a board associate of Baltimore Philharmonic Orchestra.
The depiction of Lecter escalates to a kind that even exceeds the worst person in the town. Lecter is wholly dedicated to his nastiness, and eventually he becomes a practical demonic force, so he convinces his audience that people with such a character exist in the real life. He is further depicted as a monster, so that there can never be any efforts of humanizing him. Lecter's smile is revealed as frosty, and his eyes always have the same expression. Only his mind, that pierces and astonishes, draws Lecter to Starling. Lecter is a killer who is illustrated as brilliant and evil as he is stated to be.
The film becomes even suspenseful due to the Starling’s inability to control the forces threatening her life. Lecter appears to totally control his voice and senses, while Starling regularly cannot speak. In the film, silence is itself overwhelming, with Starling muttering or being stuck in a reactive stare. It is this behavior that makes Starling’s final fight with Buffalo Bill more powerful, regardless of her fear, she is able to prevent him from murdering more women, including her.
The movie provides a strong measure of melodrama which is revealed through a further observation of Lecter. He is given a devious control and intelligence powers that are much above the powers of actual serial killers. According to the expectations, the super villain ends up being the hero in regards to a more sincerely base and heinous system. The dark but potent powers of Lecter are revealed as anticipated to be seen as good.
Buffalo Bill’s real name is James Gumb, who is also a fictional character and antagonist in the film The Silence of the Lambs. He is depicted as one who kills obese women and peels off their skin, so as to make a ‘woman suit’ for himself. It is revealed that he was born in California and left behind by his alcoholic prostitute mother. Though his background is omitted, the film does not suggest that he had a distressing childhood. Bill had lived in foster homes until he was ten years old. He was adopted by his grandparents, whom he later murdered, when he reached 12 years. After murdering his grandparents, Bill was taken to a psychoanalytic hospital, where he learnt to be a tailor. He started an affair with Benjamin Raspail as he worked in Baltimore curio store. Raspail left Bill for Klaus, who was also killed by Bill.
Buffalo Bill had the desire to become a woman. He was a gay character, taunted by the woman figure. In his murder of Klaus, Bill was pushed to commit the murder by his jealous of the relationship that Raspail had established with Klaus. Bill was later aimed at murdering women through strangulation, and skinning them with the aim of making a ‘woman suit’ from their skins. Bill’s depiction of the desire to become a woman makes him someone who was too disturbed to be suitable for a transgender surgery. He puts on female clothes and shoves his penis behind his legs to look like a woman. He views femininity as a better and more superior state. He, therefore, wears women’s skins to experience the physical change and to get the transformation power, linked with the capability of the women to give birth. It is explained in the movie that Bill is not a transgender, but he just considers himself to be the one, as he dislikes his own identity.
Buffalo Bill, just like Lecter, also addresses the audience, particularly during his performance at “Goodbye Horses”. Bill is also energetic, just like Lecter, but he lacks Lecter’s refinement, which makes Bill frightening in his own respect. The violence of Bill is associated with homophobia, transphobia, and misogyny. These links come in different ways. First, Bill’s name became a joke among policemen, who gave him the name Buffalo Bill because of him skinning his victims. Bill’s drooping wrists and high voice may be linking him with homosexuality, but it may also be connecting him to hatred of his female victims. This is illustrated when he howls along with Catherine Martin, putting a pair of socks on his chest to mock breasts, scornfully imitating her pain and womanliness.
Bill is also depicted as a dramatic illustration of the fear of women. The terror he generates is not his only fault, but the manner in which it overlaps with his extreme dehumanization and heartlessness in the treatment of his victims.
Starling uses the psychological profile of Bill, provided to her by Lecter during their first meeting. The profile mainly comprises of cryptic clues intended to assist Starling to discover for herself. Starling finally decides from the riddles provided to her by Lecter that Gumb was familiar with his first victim, and she heads to Ohio to collect information. Starling finds Gumb at the house of the Gumb’s first victim's employer. Gumb had killed that employer too and impersonated him, but Starling discovers this and makes an order asking him to surrender. She eventually kills him and rescues Catherine Martin, the daughter of the U.S Senator, who was just about to be killed by Gumb when Starling knocked at his door.
In conclusion, The Silence of the Lambs is a masterpiece of criminal investigation and character profiling. This has been well illustrated through the depiction of one serial killer, Lecter, who tracked down and arrested another serial killer, Buffalo Bill. The provision of Bill’s background also provides a clear and logical means to get an insight into his personality, leading to understanding of the motives and methods of executing his murders.
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