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The Silence of the Lambs

Cast & Credits:


Clarice Starling: Jodie Foster

Dr. Hannibal Lecter: Anthony Hopkins

Jack Crawford: Scott Glenn

Dr. Frederick Chilton: Anthony Heald

Jamie Gumb: Ted Levine

Ardelia Mapp: Kasi Lemmons


Orion Pictures Presents A Film Directed By Jonathan Demme.

Produced By Edward Saxon, Kenneth Utt And Ron Bozman.

Photographed By Tak Fujimoto.

Written By Ted Tally.

Based On The Novel By Thomas Harris.

Edited By Craig McKay.

Music By Howard Shore.

Running Time: 116 Minutes.

Classified R.

The film is reviewed extensively here

This is what the Board (WJEC) expect you to attain and demonstrate in your coursework.


Knowledge and understanding of how a film works formally and stylistically

to communicate meaning and engage audiences, together with the skills to

identify and explore their own response as spectators to a wide range of




Learning in this unit focuses on film form and the production of meaning. It is expected that the focus will be on films of a kind which candidates are already familiar, such as Hollywood genre films.



Understanding and appreciation will be fostered through the development of skills in:


- close observation of the features of a film's form and style;


- identifying the techniques of storytelling specific to narrative film;


- analysing film form pragmatically, that is in relation to intended and actual

responses by audiences;


- reflecting on individual response in relation to the 'macro' and 'micro'

elements of film form.


In relation to the above, 'meaning and response' should be seen primarily as the study

of the interaction of film text and audience as a communication process.

Interpretation of, for example, character and theme must be balanced by a

consideration of the response to the sensory qualities of, for example, shot

composition and soundtrack.


Film Form

This unit requires a study of both 'macro' aspects of film form (narrative and genre)

and 'micro' aspects (mise-en-scène, performance, cinematography, editing and sound).


Narrative includes study of the overall structure of the film, the way in which the

elements of the story are organised. Within the study of a specific sequence, study

will include consideration of how narrative information is communicated.


Genre will, for the purposes of this module, be studied primarily as an efficient

means by which a narrative film communicates meaning, especially through

exploitation of signifying features readily recognisable to an audience, such as



Mise-en-Scene includes setting, props, staging, costume and make-up, figure

expression and movement and off-screen space.


Performance includes both individual and ensemble performances. It may include a

specific focus on one or more of: physical expression, vocal delivery, interaction

between performers and the specificity of performance for the camera.


Cinematography includes photographic elements (e.g. camera position, colour, lens,

depth of focus), lighting, framing and composition and special effects.


Editing includes the organisation of time, both within a sequence and across sections

of the narrative and the organisation of space, especially in creating coherence for the

spectator. The principal conventions of continuity editing, such as shot/reverse shot

and the 180 degree rule, will be studied. The uses of montage editing will also be



Sound includes diegetic sound, non-diegetic sound and the variety of ways in which

aural elements (e.g. speech, music and noise) are used in relation to visuals.


Spectator Study


The unit also requires a study of the spectator as someone who 'reads' a film text and responds to narrative and film form.

It is not required in this unit for candidates to engage in complex issues of

spectatorship theory or to make fine distinctions between spectator and audience.

The emphasis should be on the development of the candidate's awareness of his/her

competences in working with the conventions of narrative film and genre in order to

make meaning. In addition, there should be some exploration of the spectator's

personal identity in responding to a film, in other words how idiosyncratic response

may be, reflecting the individual's particular 'formation'.








     Campbell is watching a group of trainees on the firing range,

     as Clarice joins him. He looks tired, haunted. Between master

     and student, we sense a subtle, muted tug of sexuality.



                 Starling, Clarice M., good morning.



                 Good morning, Mr. Campbell.



                 Your instructors tell me you're doing

                 well. Top quarter of the class.



                 I hope so. They haven't posted anything.



                 A job's come up and I thought about you.

                 Not really a job, more of - an interest-

                 ing errand. Walk me to my car, Starling.


     They begin to cross the academy grounds. A group of trainees

     jogs by, in matching sweats, following a p.e. coach.


                              CAMPBELL (contd.)

                 We're trying to interview all of the

                 serial killers now in custody, for a

                 psychobehavioral profile. Could be a

                 big help in unsolved cases. Most of them

                 have been happy to talk to us. They have

                 a compulsion to boast, these people...

                 Do you spook easily, Starling?



                 Not yet.



                 You see, the one we want most refuses

                 to cooperate. I want you to go after

                 him again today, in the asylum.



                 Who's the subject?



                 The psychiatrist - Dr. Gideon Quinn.


     Clarice stops walking, goes very still. A beat.



                 The cannibal...


     Campbell doesn't respond, except to study her face.


                              CLARICE (contd.)

                 Yes, well... Okay, right. I'm glad for

                 the chance, sir, but - why me?



                 You're qualified and available. And frankly,

                 I can't spare a real agent right now.


     He walks on again, at a faster clip. She hurried to keep up.


                              CAMPBELL (contd.)

                 I don't expect him to talk to you, but I

                 have to be able to say we tried... Quinn

                 was a brilliant psychiatrist, and he

                 knows all the dodges.

                    (Hands her the manila envelope)

                 Dossier on him, copy of our question-

                 naire, special ID for you... If he won't

                 talk, then I want straight reporting.

                 How's he look, how's his cell look,

                 what's he writing? The Director himself

                 will see your report, over your own signa-

                 ture - if I decide it's good enough. I

                 want that by 0800 Wednesday, and keep this

                 to yourself.


     They're reached his car. His driver stamps on a cigarette, climbs

     in behind the wheel. BURROUGHS, his assistant, says something in-

     to a walkie-talkie, then opens the back door. But Campbell pulls

     her aside, a hand on her shoulder. His intensity is scary.


                              CAMPBELL (contd.)

                 Now. I want your full attention, Starling.

                 Are you listening to me?



                 Yes sir.



                 Be very careful with Gideon Quinn. Dr.

                 Prentiss at the asylum will go over the

                 physical procedures used with him. Do not

                 deviate from them, for any reason. You

                 tell him nothing personal, Starling. Believe

                 me, you don't want Gideon Quinn inside your

                 head... Just do your job, but never forget

                 what he is.



                    (a bit unnerved)

                 And what is that, sir?


                              PRENTISS (V.O.)

                 Oh, he's a monster. A pure psychopath...


                                                  CUT TO:





A second draft of the “Silence of the Lambs” is appended below just to show how much the final mise en scene of the film differs from earlier screenplay drafts.

The full screenplay can be read at this amazing web site

We will be looking at “Silence of the Lambs” in micro detail questing, as all good cinema detectives should, for signs and their potential meanings.

Demme has a range of tasks to achieve at the start of his film: an introduction of plot characters and themes to his audience. He also has to clearly sign the genre he is working in or even subverting.


Your task is to attempt to answer the following question:


How does Demme build towards our/Clarice’s first encounter with Dr Hannibal Lecter? You should discuss the role of screenplay, cinematography, sound/music, mise en scene and editing.

When Starling enters Crawford’s office the music drops as she casually browses the room. The camera cuts to a mid-shot of Starling calmly observing her environment, but suddenly her expression and body language changes, as she fixes her gaze on something behind the cameras’ position.

 Demme has chosen to shoot in this way to create a feeling of suspense for the audience, as we cannot immediately see what Starling is reacting to. In addition to this, the music kicks in once again, a loud ominous score, contrasting against the silence previously, an attempt by Demme at making the scenes’ atmosphere even more intrusive and dramatic.


 The camera then becomes subjective of Starlings view point, showing a notice board plastered in newspaper clippings and crime scene photos. The subjective camera helps to draw the viewer into Starling’s shoes, making us feel her feelings, especially when viewing such horrific images. The main clipping that stands out in a large dark font reads ‘BILL SKINS FIFTH,’ it is deliberately predominant, as the headline congers up a very unpleasant image in the audiences’ minds’, which adds to the sense of uneasiness.


Crawford enters the office and he and Starling take seats as he begins to explain to her that he’d like her to do an errand for him. Crawford pauses and uses the term “Do you spook easily Starling?”

Demme has chosen this rather clichéd expression to signify that her duty will be scary and dangerous. This also has a disturbing impact upon the audience, as we are aware we will follow her in the task ahead, as she has been established as the films main protagonist.


Crawfords’ tone of voice and expression suddenly becomes very serious, heavily contrasting against the rather positive and cheery conversation him and Starling had when he first came in. He tells Starling (and in turn the audience) to pay “full attention.” He mentions Dr Lectors name and Starling responds with “Hannibal the Cannibal.” The rhyme helps the audience to recall the name and the word cannibal first introduces Lector as obviously very dangerous and depraved, detailing his wicked crime.


The fact we are told he is a Dr, a psychologist,  suggests he is incredibly clever and could easily trick and manipulate you, backed up further by Crawfords statement, “Believe me, you don’t want Hannibal Lector in your head.” Suggesting it’s happened to someone before, leading to dire consequences which Crawford won’t divulge.  Crawford describes the task at hand, detailing how Starling should observe Lector, what he says, how he acts, whether he’s drawing etc. which again signifies to the audience that this is also their job.


Demme cleverly links this primary warning by Crawford via a sound bridge to a second warning by Chilton, furthermore emphasising the need for caution with Lector. Chilton continues to build up this complex and deplorable image of Lector, calling him a “monster, a pure psychopath,” detailing how he is “much too sophisticated for the standard tests,” so not your average serial killer.


Chilton and Starling make there way to where Lector is kept within the building. Chilton makes a sick joke to Starling, “Boy are you his taste (Hannibals).”  Demme has done this not only to further stress the already established view of Chilton as sleaze, but also to reiterate to the audience the ‘cannibal’ side of Lector. Additionally perhaps to suggest that Hannibal will like Starling. This could be in a perverse and cannibalistic way, which would make Starling feel more anxious and vulnerable in meeting Lector, making the audience fear for her.


Demme alters the camera work at this point with a dolly heading towards Starling and Chilton as they walk towards the camera. This seemingly increases the speed of the film, and also amplifies the anticipation of meeting Lector, which we know is imminent.

The pair passes through many locked gates with police officer guards, again emphasising the danger of the criminals, including Lector, especially if they were to escape (possibly foretelling the event later in the film.)

Starling and Chilton move physically downwards in the building on their journey to Lector.  This connotes perhaps that they’re on their way to hell, that meeting the ‘sinner’ Lector will be like visiting the nadir. Demmes light choice also indicates this, red bulbs with dark shadows, colours associated with danger, death and hell.

Before Chilton leaves Starling, he gives her and our third warning of Lector. The red light in the scene is really intense, and a strange menacing, almost industrial ambient music starts in the background to build up the uneasiness. Chilton tells Starling how Lector complained of ill health and was allowed to see a nurse who lent over his face, and “he did this to her.”

At that very moment Demme chose to have a door slam smash shut to heighten the shock and impact of Chilton showing Starling the photo. Chilton says “they managed to save one of her eyes…reset her jaw, kind of…his pulse never went above 85 even when he ate her tongue.” This language is very shocking and sick, helping the audience to build up a mental image of the nurse’s face and Lector committing the act, again stressing and building up this twisted view of Lector and what he’s capable of.

 Demme has chosen not to show the audience the picture in order to let them use their own imaginations, which I’m sure could conjure up a sicker image than they could show. The reaction and emotion on Starlings face furthermore helps us to imagine just how horrendous this image must be.


Starling enters a small room with 3 police guards in and a subjective camera scans the space. Extensive CCTV televisions and a rack of guns highlight the need for security, and Barney gives Starling her 4th warning again imbedding this need to be wary.

Demme increases the tense music as well as red light as she is lead through the very last gate and locked inside, creating the ultimate build up. Starling is shown mid shot walking to the end cell, obviously scared by her facial expression and apprehensive body language. She passes two very sick prisoners one who tells her that he can “smell her cunt.” This is very shocking and vulgar, and suggests, with Lector being on the very end, that the worst is yet to come, even more so than Mags.

Indeed this theory is true, with Lectors prison having a glass front, even more secure than the other prisoner’s metal bars. Subjective camera takes us on this journey towards Lector’s cell, so that the audience can really feel as if they are in Starlings shoes, embracing every bit of her fear and dread.

Our first glimpse of Hannibal Lector is him stood upright as if already waiting for Starling, with very ambiguous unnatural body language, his hands by his sides slightly cupped. He looks very different to the other prisoners, with his neat appearance, again tying in with how lector ‘was too sophisticated for the standard tests,’ that he’s more than you’re average serial killer.


I think the beginning of the film from the point of Crawford’s office to the moment where Starling first sets her eyes on Lector is remarkably well put together.’ The choice of music, its fall and rise, the lighting, the script and language used to describe him and his conduct, the mise-en-scene, in addition to the camera work, what we are shown and not shown, is outstanding. In all it creates the ultimate build up to meeting the hyped ‘Hannibal the Cannibal.’





This is Alison Thornton’s excellent response to this micro analysis. I gave it an A

An A + actually as Clarice Starling might say.

Micro analysis.


How does Jonathan Demme use mise enscene, cinematography and editing to make Clarice vulnerable as a woman in a man's world?



The autopsy scene in Silence of the Lambs.


Ask yourself, where do the audience's sympathies lie in this scene?


How does Jonathan Demme keep the sympathies of the audience with Clarice?


Clarice encounters areas of potential conflict, how well does she deal with them?


How does Jonathan Demme create a highly dominant masculine atmosphere in these scenes?


When Clarice is being stared at by the state troopers  how is the camera organised so that Clarice's embarrassment is made very clear.


What is the effect on the audience of showing  Clarice's memory of the funeral of her father?


What is the effect of all those reaction shots during the autopsy scene itself?


In what way is Jodie Foster's facial performance highly important in these scenes?


As always, in this sort of micro analysis, you must pay great attention to what you are feeling and thinking in any given scene and then try to work out what techniques has Jonathan Demme used to make you think those thoughts and feel those feelings.

Here is a potentially interesting micro task on the autopsy in West Virginia

Some interesting aspects have been provided for her character: She is "one generation up from white trash," as Lecter correctly guesses; she tries to disguise her hillbilly accent, and she has to muster up all of her courage to order a roomful of lascivious lawmen out of an autopsy room. The movie has an undercurrent of unwelcome male attention toward her character; rarely in a movie have I been made more aware of the subtle sexual pressures men put upon women with their eyes

Roger Ebert

Interesting Trivia HERE

Unrestricted narration is when we see everything, including much more than the characters themselves We hold an advantage - the suspense is generated precisely by the fact that we know something that the character does not.


Restricted narration is when we only have partial access to what is going on (It may also mean that we share the character's false information ) The flashback is a particularly interesting and fairly commonly used tool of film narration Not only does this reorder the chronology of the story, but it also exploits restricted narrative to control the audience access to information.


"Silence of the Lambs" begins with restricted narration; we know only what Starling knows, later we, the audience, learn things that Starling does not know as the narrative becomes unrestricted. This creates a tension between what we know and what she does not. I believe it was my granny who coined the exact nature of the tension:

Jaysus Clarice would you be careful that pervert's got a gun behind him on the cooker and is softening up a woman below in the well, shoot him down like a dog, blow his head off, go on. quick Clarice!!!