5 thoughts on “The Silence of the Lambs (movie)–Group 2

  1. Annabella Twomey

    I found the points about the gendered gaze in “Silence of the Lambs” slides to be interesting. Between Buffalo Bill’s skinnings and violence against women in an effort to build a “women’s suit” of his own, to the blatant sexism and misogyny that Clarice Starling experiences while being an intelligent worker in her field, the film draws attention to the many ways in which women are viewed as inferior, or objectified and treated as purely sexual objects.

    Perhaps on a similar vein, but much more subtle, I noticed a difference in how the book portrayed Dr. Lecter’s conversation with Senator Martin vs. the film. Much of the content of the conversation is the same, such as Dr. Lecter asking Martin if she breast fed Catherine, giving her a fake name of Buffalo Bill’s identity, complimenting her suit. However in the book Dr. Lecter and Senator Martin have a civil conversation where they at first have only a couple people with them and then are eventually alone. In the the film, it is much more of a dramatic spectacle. Dr. Lecter comments on her nipples being tough and Senator Martin becomes outraged and says “Get this thing away from me.” Lecter still eventually says more information, but it is not a civil exchange. In the film, they chose to show a woman in power, an esteemed senator, be degraded and disrespected by a man (Lecter) as she is quite literally surrounded by men who watch in awe and scoff at Lecter’s comments. In short, Lecter attempts to undermine her power. Although Lecter makes a crude comment, the immediate pan to several of the men’s faces around the room almost seem to suggest that Lecter is perhaps saying comments that at least some of them are thinking, suggesting that he’s calling out some internal crude/sexist thoughts in their own minds. It is a subtle change in the film, but it is one I noticed after reading through the slides about the film’s deliberate scene choices in setting up women surrounded by men who are in the male gaze, whether it be their colleagues or by a sociopath.

  2. Carl Langaker

    I was really interested by the point made in the slides about how the movie was seen as being controversial in the LGBTQ+ community. When reading the book I felt that it was not at all meant to be homophobic or transphobic. Quite the contrary, for instance, when Crawford visits Dr. Danielson, the head of the Gender Identity Clinic at Johns Hopkins, he insists that “to even mention Buffalo Bill in the same breath with the problems we treat here is ignorant and unfair and dangerous, Mr. Crawford. It makes my hair stand on end. It’s taken years—we’re not through yet—showing the public that transsexuals aren’t crazy, they aren’t perverts, they arent queers (…) The incidence of violence among transsexuals is a lot lower than in the general population. These are decent people with a real problem—a famously intransigent problem. They deserve help and we can give it”. This dialogue is omitted from the movie, and the impact is evident – the viewers of the film never fully understand what the filmmakers are trying to say with regards to Gumb’s sexuality, which blurs the fine line separating whether his affliction is at all attributed to transsexuality or not. Consequently, I feel that had dialogues from the book like this been included, the response from the homosexual and transexual communities might have been a lot more accepting, as it would been made clear that the causality of insanity is not being tied to transsexuality whatsoever.

    I generally think that omitting Crawford’s visit to Johns Hopkins makes the film slightly more confusing. I found myself surprised at how quick the final segment of the movie rushed by, as Crawford rushes to the wrong house. When he is in the plane, Crawford quickly tells Clarice that they have found their man, and that they are en-route to his location. Here I feel it would have been helpful to get a bit more context, such as we get in the book with Crawford’s visit to Johns Hopkins. Hence, while parts of the movie maintain the pacing of the book, I felt like they really rushed it towards the end, such as with this scene.

  3. Andreya Zvonar

    One crucial change in the adaptation of The Silence of the Lambs from book to film is Hannibal Lecter’s cell. In the book, the cell is described as a traditional one with bars. In the movie, it is a modern, glass cell. Here is a good description of it from the book:

    “Dr. Lecter’s cell is well beyond the others, facing only a closet across the corridor, and it is unique in other ways. The front is a wall of bars, but within the bars, at a distance greater than the human reach, is a second barrier, a stout nylon net stretched from floor to ceiling and wall to wall. Behind the net, Starling could see a table bolted to the floor and piled high with soft-cover books and papers, and a straight chair, also fastened down.”

    This change is vital because it visually differentiates Lecter from the other inmates. When Clarice meets him in the movie, she passes multiple inmates who jump out at her from cells that resemble dark caves; however, when she gets to Lecter’s cell, it is bright and he greets her cordially. This immediately begins to build the readers sympathy towards Lecter. More importantly, the glass eliminates any visual barrier between him and Clarice. The movie focuses on ‘the gaze’ quite a bit – especially in the moment when Clarice and Lecter first meet. By using a glass cell, the viewer feels as if there is nothing separating the two. Furthermore, it allows one a full view of Lecter’s face. Had the original cell (i.e. the one from the book) been created for the movie, these gazes would not have had the same effect, as Lecter’s would have been blocked by bars.

    The glass also helps the viewer understand Lecter’s ability to break mental barriers. He occupies space in Clarice’s head (as with many others), and the glass gives the viewer that same feeling. While Lecter is in his cell, the lack of bars makes the viewer feel as if Lecter is not in fact locked up. This brings the viewer closer to him and engenders fear. I vividly remember my first time seeing this movie (circa 2008) and not being able to forget Antony Hopkins’ stare. Very scary!

    1. Michael Taylor


      I also found the choice to replace Hannibal’s cell bars for plexiglass noteworthy and think that the change works, on the whole, quite well. The film emphasizes Anthony Hopkins’s stare to great effect!

      Building off of your point, I wonder how the counterfactual would have worked visually. What would need to be different for the film NOT to change the bars and net from the novel? I think in many ways the film’s take on Lecter, himself, would have to be overhauled. We have talked about interiority vs. exteriority in visual mediums before, and I think here is another example: if the film kept the netting and bars, Lecter would be literally obscured by barrier and distance. His character’s externality (the only way to render internality in film, save for a voice-over) would become literally darker, smaller, and more distant. He could not fulfill the bombastic, semi-sympathetic role he is assigned in the film, but would have to hew closer to his colder, more detached self of the book.

      This melds reasonably well with today’s slides’ discussion of the male gaze. I wonder how much a film viewer, regardless of gender, fits into the typology of a consuming, objectifying male gaze. Apropos internality vs. externality, everything in film must be rendered for consumption by the viewer. To remove Lecter behind bars and netting would be to deny the viewer his consumption and complicate the effect of the film in a way that written fiction can easily overcome with omniscient narration. Perhaps that is another way this film struggles with the subtextual (sub-cinematic??) prevalence of the male gaze.

      Lastly, I can’t help but consider the choice to change the bars to plexiglass as a sort of technocratic update to the classical dungeon motif, discussed last week. It seems like the book’s image of Lecter paradoxically imprisoned in a dungeon by a democratic society is updated in the film to represent imprisonment by modernity or technology; in the movie, he looks a lot more like a lab specimen than a medieval prisoner. I see this same updated motif in the extended POV shot of Gumb pursuing Clarice through night-vision goggles, as Gumb’s predation is cast in the hazy, Matrix-style green of digitization. Beware the technocracy?

  4. Elizabeth Srulevich

    I saw the film adaptation many times before I read the novel. Despite this, I still loved the book just as much (if not more!) because of a few elements that were missing in Jonathan Demme’s version of the story, like insights into Lecter’s mind. For example, while Raspail only appears as a quick mention in the film, serving as little more than a clue Lecter offers Clarice in her search to uncover Buffalo Bill’s identity, Raspail’s importance is emphasized far more in the book. In Chapter 26, we get a glimpse into Lecter’s sharp, calculated mind as he recalls a therapy session with Raspail in which Raspail recounts his relationship with Jame Gumb, a.k.a. Buffalo Bill. We learn not only about the character of Raspail via his own recollections, in his own distinct voice, but also about Gumb and Lecter in vivid, descriptive ways that the movie just doesn’t (or rather, can’t because of the medium itself) accomplish. This deeper perspective, especially in the format of a flashback, is one of the crucial differences between the book and the film, and it also might be a reason why there are so many film/television spin-offs of the original story. There’s just so much material to work with when it comes to dissecting/portraying all these tangential rants and recollections that the characters have in the book!

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