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« Interview: Chivo on The Revenant, Great Auteurs, and Instagram Spying | Main | Best Actor: The Year of the Ham »

Silence of the Lambs Pt 4: Screaming and Coveting

Team Experience is revisiting 1991's Best Picture winner for its 25th Anniversary...

Previously... We learned about the case and met Clarice as she went on "an errand," Buffalo Bill caught his next victim, and Starling & Lecter played a game of Quid Pro Quo

an FYC ad from the time

Pt. 4 by Jose Solis

When Nathaniel left us, Dr. Lecter was Scheherezade-ing the crap out of Clarice by telling her about Baltimore. Do you ever get a sense that just like the King from Arabian Nights, Agent Starling craves to return for more?

01:08:18 “Everything you need to find him is right there in those pages...” he says about the case files. As Clarice paces left to right, Dr. Lecter decides it’s time for another lesson by quoting Marcus Aurelius. He suggests Clarice decipher what is the nature of the killer. As she lists every reason why serial killers kill in lesser thrillers, the doctor loses his patience and gives her the answer.

01:08:57 “He covets”

01:09:45 Clarice begs him to help her out, as the philosophizing cannibal reminds her it’s her turn to share, after all “this is all the time we’ll ever have”.

01:10:28 Clarice recounts the tale which gives the book/film its name, as she shares a memory that haunts her from her days in the ranch in Montana with her relatives. Something woke her up early one day…

Hannibal: What was it?”

Clarice: It was screaming”

01:10:47 The camera zooms into Clarice’s face as she tells her tale...letting the doctor inside her head, as he asks her what she saw that traumatized her.

01:10:54 “Lambs, they were screaming” 

01:11:39 “I thought if I could save just one” she explains. After failing to save the lamb, she was sent away to an orphanage and never saw the ranch again.

Trivia: The Spanish title for The Silence of the Lambs is The Silence of the Innocents, meaning if you grew up watching it in Spanish and not knowing the original title, this scene lost some of its symbolic power. One of my pet peeves growing up bilingual in Latin America, was how studios mess with the title translations...but that’s a story for another day.

You still wake up sometimes don’t you? Wake up in the dark and hear the screaming of the lambs...”

01:12:15 Don't we all, Doctor? Do you all love how Sir Anthony enunciates the word “lambs”? 

01:13:09 After Clarice finishes her story, they come to show her out of the room. She demands he tell her the killer’s name as they pull her out, when Dr. Lecter reminds her she forgot her case file.

01:13:35 When she runs back to collect it, there is this Michelangelo-esque exchange. Is it expressing romantic love? Lust? Or merely the sign of someone who believes himself to be above nature, morality and the law attempting to make a connection with a mortal?

01:14:20 ...and here we have it. I had never noticed before that he draws her with three crosses in the back. Past the whole “lamb of god” connotations I wonder if he imagines Clarice as the Virgin Mary or Mary Magdalene.

01:15:32 Nat already mentioned the amazing cinematography, and how cool is this homage to Notorious?

It’s especially perverse considering in the Hitchcock film we’re rooting for the heroine to get away with it, was Demme suggesting the audience’s allegiance is shifting towards Lecter?

01:17:22 The doctor sets himself free and commits two of the most brutal murders in all of film history. It’s especially chilling to watch how his expression barely changes. He is enjoying the hell out of this.

01:20:04 Then a macabre discovery. For all of his refinement Dr. Lecter sure tends to be quite tacky in his decorative skills. 

01:23:39 As more police officers arrive to try and contain the escaped cannibal they realize he’s outsmarted them once more. Officers shoot who they believe to be Lecter hiding above the elevator, only to realize Elvis has left the building.

01:24:53 Peek-a-boo!

01:25:29 Clarice learns of the doctor’s escape and comments on how he would consider it “rude” to come after her, so she isn’t worried about it. “It’s over, she’s dead” she comments about Catherine.

01:26:32 Eureka! As Clarice and Ardelia study the case, while sitting comfortably on washing machines (?!) they discover a pattern, “we covet what we see”, the first victim was someone Buffalo Bill knew!

01:28:51 Clarice arrives in Frederika’s house to ask her father more questions. Note the eerie picture of the smiling little girl behind him. She looks to him craving for justice. How could her dad lose sight of her? That’s probably also how her family choose to remember her, considering she never came home after vanishing. 

01:29:34 A Madonna sighting is always worth screencapping (see also: 01:14:20) 

01:31:51 After looking around and connecting the dots Clarice has another moment of gruesome enlightenment.

He’s making himself a woman’s suit, out of real women!”


Horrific couture -- continue on to Tim's write up of the finale...


Jose Solís  Jose Solís wanted to write about film since he was a child which is why he followed the yellow brick road and moved to Oz (ahem NYC) to make his dream come true. He has been writing about film since 2003 and regularly contributes to The Film Experience and PopMatters. He is also having a torrid affair with Broadway and theatAH and writes about those at StageBuddy.com. He is a member of the Online Film Critics Society.  [Follow Jose on Twitter / All Jose articles]


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Reader Comments (24)

I can't believe a movie this fucked up(and good) won Best Picture.

That little finger touch between Lecter/Clarice just feels so wrong, omg

February 11, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJeremy

Jeremy -- agreed. wouldn't it be something to see something else completely atypical (like, say, MAD MAX FURY ROAD) take Best Picture again?

February 11, 2016 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

He had to touch her after she gave him what he wanted,I took it as a t/you,like he was connected eternally to her now,that's why Hannibal did not work at all with a different actressit's all about that connection of minds,she opened up to a killer about her most intimate/painful memery.

February 11, 2016 | Unregistered Commentermark

I think I'll watch this movie again on Feb. 14....

February 11, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterSanty C.

1. The story of lambs is just mesmerizing. They were so smart to leave it to Foster and Hopkins to sell it the scene, w/o the use of a flashback.
2. I love the scenes in Francesca Bimmel's house.The sadness - of someone missing far too soon - is palpable.

February 11, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterRob

Mark - totally agree with you, Lecter thanks her by giving her the case file, verbal clue, and a goodbye touch. The touch is to emphasize their connection to one another.

This escape scene is the only time we see blood during the film. That's why SOTL works so much better than "Hannibal" - the violence is implied not seen most of the time.
Watching Starling search through that room is full of suspense, that last shot of the dressmaking pattern is perfect. I remember the whole theatre gasping at once.

I wish the Academy would reward MM:FR with an Oscar this year, sometimes a great film is just a great film no matter what the genre.

February 11, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterLadyEdith

I went back and watched SOTL a couple of months ago and I was blown away by it all over again. It's so well crafted, building with every deliberately chosen word and shot and action. Truly phenomenal.

February 11, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterScott

01:29:34 A Madonna sighting is always worth screencapping (see also: 01:14:20)

LOL - THIS!!!!

February 11, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterDAVID

After discussing Tak Fujimoto's lack of an Oscar nomination yesterday and seeing some of my favorite shots from the movie today, I'm really starting to wonder why the Academy's cinematographers' branch seems to drop the ball so often. I'm still sore about Sean Bobbitt's snub for 12 Years a Slave two years ago.

My favorite part of The Silence of the Lambs has to be the shot of Lecter's finger delicately making contact with Clarice's finger when he passes the file to her. It's a subtle explosion of everything I love about the film. The creepiness is certainly palpable, but as much as it feels so wrong (as Jeremy stated above), it elevates the movie and the characters to an even higher level of perfection. So, to me, the shot is very much all right.

February 11, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterSean Troutman

Fun fact: in Spain they actually gave the title a literal translation to Spanish. Not often the case, since very often we get truly ridiculous translations, much like Jose mentioned. (For example, here ´The Sound of Music' was ´Smiles and Tears'... no comment).

February 11, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterCarlos

That finger fondle is the most terrifying part of the movie; it literally sends a chill through my body every time I view it. Knowing what heinous acts he had committed and what was on the horizon, I felt very protective of Clarice ("Oh my God, he touched her!") and that is a testament to Foster's brilliance. I still believe the Oscar should have been split in half (Geena and Susan), but Foster's win here is more justified than The Accused.

February 11, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterNewMoonSon

No Chris Isaak screencap?

(I really want Hopkins and Foster to present best picture)

February 11, 2016 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

Cal -- oh that would be heavenly. But they're not going to do anything that cool. They never do anything co-star legend cool like that for best picture. I bet this year it'll be someone uber famous who is also black so...let's see: Denzel or Poitier or Oprah? maybe. If black artists are nervous about doing it given the noise... it'll be someone super traditional that no one will complain about: Tom Hanks?

February 11, 2016 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Jose -- love the Madonna joke. I also noticed a Debbie Harry poster in the room this time that I hadn't noticed before "Def, Dumb, and Blonde" from 1989.

everyone -- Demme's casting of music people for cameos in various films is fun. In this film we have Chris Isaak (SWAT team) and one of the girls from the new wave 80s dance band Book of Love (interview scene). and... i'm sure there's someone else.

Carlos - -SMILES AND TEARS? wtf.

Scott - yeah, not a bit of padding. and it earns everything.

February 11, 2016 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

this whole thing is just ICONIC!
That murder scene sends chills down my spine.
And I kind of forgot, you see when Bill kidnapped Catherine, he looked at the patch that mentions her size on her clothes, well that bizarrely enough causes a furor in Indonesia cause it saya that her clothes is made in Indonesia. A protest just because of that! WTF

February 11, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterCraver

Touches of Humour: I always smile at the issue of "Bon Appetit" magazine in Hannibal's cell, the camera just pans over it when Lecter is receiving his meal. Naturally he wanted Lamb. How very droll.

February 11, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterLadyEdith

cal: DITTO!!!!! AMPAS could do a phenomenal "anniversary" tribute to four important films if they wanted this year


a) 100th anniversary of Intolerance - opening montage of the best picture nominees, using the techniques DW Griffith pioneered.

b) 75th anniversary of Citizen Kane - get film geeks (aka, Martin Scorsese, Peter Bogdanovich, talking about it)

c) 50th anniversary of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf - a milestone in adult filmmaking - montage of "adult" moments in important movies.

d) 25th anniversary of The Silence of the Lambvs - have Demme, Hopkins and Foster present best picture and director.

Seriously, no brainer here

Also, I'm loving this series.

February 11, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterArkaan

I do agree that the movie is well made, but it's about serial killers. Not everyone's cup of tea.

February 11, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterDevon

I always forget about the finger touch in the moment because I'm wrapped up in the horror and emotion of that flawless scene. It always comes as such a stomach-turning shock.

February 12, 2016 | Registered CommenterChris Feil

Another great write-up. I love this relay race! But in this section of the film, I have a couple of questions I can't answer.

First, a confession re: the Notorious-like screenshot above: I've never understood the business with the bit of metal that Lecter uses to uncuff his handfcuffs. Is it from Chilton's pen? Lecter was eyeing it up when he was all tied up in his cell ready to be moved out. How on earth did he get it? There's something terrifying about his cunning in that scene, but I've never quite understood what exactly was going on.

Also, why does the film show Lecter's escape? It's Clarice's story, and it has no bearing on Clarice's search for Buffalo Bill. She (and we) could easily be told about his escape without our seeing it. Don't get me wrong - I think it's an effective sequence; but it's perhaps the one sequence where I feel that the film is a little bit gratuitous.

Meanwhile, one of my favourite moments: after Clarice has left her final meeting with Lecter, and before he escapes, there's a wonderful, wordless little moment when she's walking dejectedly through the airport. A simple camera set-up that says so much about her mood at that time.

February 12, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterEdward L.

@Edward L. Yes, it's a piece of metal from Chilton's gold pen. He plays with it in his mouth and then you see it lying carelessly on the bed. Although Lecter is tied up at this point, time clearly passes between that scene and the next in Memphis. The idea is that Chilton walked out, leaving the pen, and that Lecter was unrestrained and alone in his cell for a time before being transported. When Chilton later can't find his pen and has to borrow one they zoom in on Lecter's face so you know he's got it and that it will come into play, somehow.

The dejected airport scene is a nice touch, especially the moment when a businessman eyes her off as he walks by. Clarice just can't get away from the male gaze anywhere!

February 12, 2016 | Unregistered Commentermsd

msd: Thanks for clarifying about the pen. I hadn't considered the possibility that Lecter would have been untied again after Chilton left the cell. There's his opportunity! Makes sense now.

And, you know what? I've never noticed the businessman. Must do so next time!

February 13, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterEdward L.

Edward L. I'm not usually that observant, my excuse is that I rewatched the film yesterday!

February 13, 2016 | Unregistered Commentermsd

I actually don't think the latin american title was off at all in fact just as the lambs of the movie everything is a metaphor you don't have to put the lambs in the title to have that sequence of the ranch have any more power because the lambs were the innocents and the murdered women were the innocent and anyone who don't get to be hear in the world and is innocent is in a prison of silence because of human evil so the silence of the innocents was a good adaptation of the orginal title and i know sometimes they really messed up movie titles but in the case it was acurate to the metaphor

June 19, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterEl Conde Ishtar

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