6 thoughts on “The Silence of the Lambs (movie)–Group 3

  1. Alexandra Lawson

    I agree with Haley and Dan, I think the difference in Clarice’s depiction in the movie versus the book was likely the most significant change for me. In the book Clarice is portrayed as more of a student, and I viewed her as having a certain youthful excitement that lacked in experience. One specific instance lost in the movie, is Clarice’s and her roommates worries about exams. Prior to meeting Crawford at the Smithsonian Clarice’s roommate warns, “You make sure Supremo Crawford knows you could get recycled if he’s not careful…” (121). This increased emphasis on her level of novice in the book, causes her to appear younger and slightly less heroic than she is portrayed in the movie. Further, in the movie we lose a lot of Clarice’s internal dialog. As Haley noted, she is charming and easy to like. I think that like the movie adaptations of both Girl Interrupted and Cuckoos nest, directors had a hard time expressing some of the nuance and internal turmoil of the main character, that their corresponding books illustrated. We never truly get glimpses into Clarice’s complex thoughts. One such critical instance in the book is her initial interactions with Chilton where the book describes, “Starling didn’t know which was worse, the photograph of Chilton’s attention as he gleaned her face with fast grabby eyes. She thought of a thirsty chicken pecking tears off her face” (12). Movies are a great form of media for portraying visuals, building an image of location in a different way than books can. However, it is near impossible to portray the inner dialogue of a character as well as a book. I think therefore Clarice’s character had to be altered in the movie, making her more outwardly heroic and strong. We certainly lose an aspect of her character in this, but I can understand why making these changes made the movie into something more accessible and mainstream.

  2. Joseph Levine

    One change I noticed was the lack of character depth for Jack Crawford in the film compared to the book. To me, if there was one character’s background was perhaps expendable in the film adaptation it would be Crawford’s, so I understand Demme’s omissions. Nonetheless, Crawford’s struggles watching his wife die as well as his history with Hannibal Lecter are important pieces in setting the scene for Starling’s assignment. Relating back to the idea of Starling as an empowering female protagonist, in the novel Crawford is the primary catalyst for enabling her to reach her potential. He has a simultaneously authoritative and nurturing relationship with Starling, and his role oscillates between boss and friend, often overlapping. While Starling’s intuition is ultimately what leads to Gumb’s demise, none of it would have been possible without Crawford’s mentorship. In the film, Crawford is reduced to a gruff superior, whose relationship with Starling is relatively cliche. Harris takes time to develop each of the major characters fully in their own chapters, but Demme is only able to allocate scenes for Starling, Lecter, and Gumb–an understandable decision. In lieu of Crawford as a medium of Starling’s empowerment, instead Demme must take his place, using the silent influence of the camera to indicate where Starling grows and how she triumphs. This is not necessarily to the film’s detriment, and while I think Crawford’s backstory adds to the novel, Demme’s informal replacement still gets Starling’s story across well.

  3. Haley Glover

    The characterization of Clarice differs from the book. For example, while Clarice and Dr. Chilton’s initial interaction is somewhat true to the book in terms of dialogue, Clarice’s body language differs. Much similar to the book, Clarice does indeed appear uncomfortable; however, in the film she is quick to cover her discomfort with small smiles and pressed laughter. Despite the movie’s move to present Clarice as the independent hero as Dan suggests, there appears to also be a Hollywood push to shape her as a beautiful and likable woman. Rather, than telling Dr. Chilton he is wrong, Clarice in the film concedes to him. This is most prevalent when Dr. Chilton chides Clarice for not having told him in his office that it would be best if he didn’t come with her to see Dr. Lecter. In the book, Clarice is quick to correct him stating, “I could have suggested it there if you’d briefed me there’ (8), placing the clear blame on him. While in the movie Clarice responds to Dr. Chilton’s complaint stating if she hadn’t walked with him “[she] wouldn’t have had the pleasure of [his] company.” The movie presents Clarice as charming, feminine, and calculating yet she is careful not to insult the men in the film who desire her. This move grants such men an agency over Clarice that is not as prevalent in the book, in which she flat out denies such mens’ advances. Further the movie’s vignettes of Clarice’s past and her relationship with her father early on sets questions in viewers minds of Clarice’s own mental state, a fact the book only attributes one line to in the beginning, sustaining Clarice’s assumed normal state.

  4. William Koch

    One thing that really interests me about the film is the style in which it’s shot. I know this isn’t necessarily a change between the novel and the film adaptation, but I think it might be. One thing that really interests me about the novel is that, to my recollection, it’s the first reading we’ve done this semester (or at least the first novel) that operates in the third person. So, unlike other experiences this semester, we don’t get inside the minds of those who have been deemed mad or, in the case of Hannibal Lecter, criminally insane. Reading the story in the third person, we become a more clearly outside spectator whereas reading from the perspective of Bromden, Kaysen, and, eventually, Patrick Bateman, we are actively observing things from the perspective of one who has been characterized as insane. I think the style of filmography eliminates that distance. As the spectator, we aren’t meant to be inside the head of Jodie Foster’s Clarice Starling, but when we get those intensely personal, extremely invasive closeup shots of Anthony Hopkins’ Lecter, we are seeing the same horror that she sees. In this sense, I think that the Hannibal of film is more intense, and maybe more terrifying than the Hannibal of the novel. Perhaps this is a testament to the fixed definition of his appearance in a visual medium vs. the subjective imagination of literature, but the unmoving, unblinking gaze of this Hannibal inspires, in my opinion, a much more visceral terror than just reading of his crimes on the page.

  5. Michael Frank

    The final shot of the movie does betray the ending of the book a bit, though perhaps to authenticate the strength of Clarice Starling. By choosing to keep Starling single at the end of the story, her self-reliance is more assured, though her conclusion is more lonely. In fact, she seems to be deprived of any closure at all; We aren’t sure if she can fully silence the lambs that night. The final shot of the film does not actually depict Starling, but rather Lecter receding into civilian life, unnoticed. The lingering threat is more important than her closure.

    I’m not convinced that Clarice is any less tough of a character for ending up with social/romantic stability at the end of the book. Perhaps the prioritization of a heterosexual relationship is anathema to certain traditional feminist values, but her closure is still on her own terms and tonally makes sense. Perhaps the film just wanted to end on a more visceral, buzzing note, but it may have come at the cost of the thematic arc. The title ‘The Silence of the Lambs’ is incredibly thematically dense and it implies that power can be taken back from the unending slaughterhouse of modern society. Though, despite how critically successful the film was, perhaps they still wanted to set up an exciting sequel at any cost.

  6. Dan Cielak

    Apart from the fact that my favorite line in the film, “I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti” is actually “I ate his liver with some fava beans and a big Amarone” in the novel, there are some other notable changes in the film adaptation of The Silence of the Lambs that I was able to picked up on. One crucial change that stood out to me is how the film portrays Clarice as more of an independent hero. Moreover, Jody Foster’s Clarice seems to embody a more pronounced sense of individuality that is not as defined in the novel. For example, in the film, Demme deliberately films her interactions with Dr. Lecture in an “extreme close-up, shot-countershot, with the actors looking directly into the camera” in order to stress the “struggle not only to get the information she needs,” but also to emphasize her struggle to maintain a safe cognitive distance from him (Taubin 18). These shots demonstrate her lone struggle to decipher the mystery rather than as someone who is just taking orders from her superiors. In the novel, I believe that Clarice acts with much less autonomy. Her character is more heavily influenced by male characters such as Crawford and Dr. Chilton and she seems to be acting out of orders rather than rendering her own. In part, I think I feel this way because a movie allows the viewer to experience character dimensions that cannot be articulated through just words on a page. For example, in the opening shot of the film, when Clarice “pounds through the Bureau’s woodland assault course,” a scene which is not included in the novel, I immediately got the feeling that she was a hyper-competent and incredibly skilled officer by the visual means that Demme offers us (Barber). Ultimately, I think these subtle inclusions and character portrayals bring out a more feminist perspective that is somewhat missing from the novel.
    On the other hand, another thing I noted is the lack of justification given for Buffalo Bill’s behavior as a transsexual serial killer. In the novel, Dr. Danielson at the John’s Hopkins Gender Identity Clinic notes that linking the Buffalo Bill case to a transsexual man is demeaning to transsexuals and that that type of behavior is not normal. In the film, I don’t believe there is any justification given defending people with gender identity issues. Thus, I believe the film stigmatizes the LGBTQ community a lot more than the novel through this omission.

    Taubin, Amy. “Killing Men.” Sight and Sound, May 1, 1991, No.1, Vol.1, pp. 14-19. Web. 15 Apr. 2021.
    Barber, Nicholas. “Why The Silence of the Lambs is a feminist fable.” BBC, 7 Mar. 2017. Web. 25 Apr. 2021.

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