The Silence of the Lambs, a psychological thriller directed by Jonathan Demme, is a movie that has a lot to do with change. Each of the main characters in this film, in their own ways, has a desire for change. For example, Clarice Starling wants change because she wants her nightmares of the lambs to go away, Dr. Hannibal Lecter wants to be moved to a new asylum with a view, and Jame Gumb, aka Buffalo Bill, wants to be a woman. Also, this movie pays a lot of attention to being a female and still being strong.
Just because Clarice is a woman does not mean she can’t do the same job as a male, matter of fact, it seems as if she does it better than a male has. The film is about the treatment of women as objects because it was clearly obvious Hannibal Lecter had some sort of attraction to Clarice, as in when she was grabbing her case file on Buffalo Bill back, and Dr. Lecter rubbed his finger on hers. Also, Buffalo Bill looks at women as objects and that is how it is so easy for him to kill and skin them.
That is the reason when Catherine’s mother made a plea on television she kept repeating her name. They figured that if she kept repeating her name he would look at her as a human being and not an object, so therefore it would be harder for him to kill her. Clarice Starling represents an emerging model of a new female heroine. She embarks on a journey of confrontation with this hidden and widespread overwhelming force against the feminine in American society.
Instead of following the pattern of most action/ adventure films starring women, The Silence of the Lambs does not focus on the way in which women have to function from the masculine in order to get the job done. In Clarice, we see an action/adventure character that is full of feelings from beginning to end, one who never doubts that feelings are an asset, a source of power. We watch her balance her intuitive clarity with a skillful maneuvering of honest and intimate conversation.
She has a strange ease with emotionally piercing scrutiny by her male bosses, peers and even the male killers. Close examination of her most private thoughts does not rattle her. If anything, she becomes more focused. And, against all warnings, she continues to place importance on establishing real interpersonal trust with Hannibal Lecter. “Just do your job,” Crawford commands Clarice. His advice is clear: feelings will work to her disadvantage. In a man’s story, the strong and coherent Crawford would be an appropriate guide.
In Clarice’s story, he fails to see the force within her. “You’re to tell him nothing personal, Starling…. And never forget what he is. ” True to the cultural prejudice against women, Crawford’s message to Clarice says she must learn to be someone other than who she is. Her inner forces (for example trusting in sensitivity, in revealing herself and interacting on the level of intimacy) are seen as her worst enemies, possibly greater enemies than even the outer threat of an enemy like Hannibal Lecter.
Clarice goes against these orders so that she can get information from Dr. Lecter. She opens up about the most tragic memories of her childhood to him in order to get answers, and she is completely honest with him about all of it. Clarice and Lecter are involved in a therapist/patient relationship because he talks to her as if she is his patient and she tells him a lot about her past, even after being instructed not to tell him any personal information. Clarice Starling does whatever it takes to get Dr. Lecter to tell her whatever he knows about Buffalo Bill.
In the beginning I believe Clarice is just a toy for Dr. Lecter, he gets enjoyment out of teasing her, making her squirm etc. However, he also respects her, right away she shows him courtesy by referring to him as Doctor Lecter and treats him like a man, not a monster. She also does not hesitate when he asks what Miggs said to her. She comes right out and tells him the honest truth. That was his first test towards Agent Starling, to see if she would tell him exactly what Miggs said or not, and she passed the test with flying colors.
I believe right then and there is when he first started to gain respect for her. They both come to respect each other, and even when she finds out that he has escaped she is not even scared because she knows they have that connection and he will not come after her. As Dr. Lecter and Agent Sterling found their way into each other’s psyche, the mind games lead to a bizarre attachment born of self-discovery. While the twisted but gifted doctor went on to eat more livers with fava beans, the FBI agent could finally silence the cry of the lambs to the slaughter in her subconscious.
The Silence of the Lambs is an unusual story of a woman who, even in the face of all the pressure to behave like a man in order to remain safe and achieve success, confronts her fear, and in turn challenges our fear that to be feminine means you are a vulnerable target and a deserving victim. A symbol of the modern woman who no longer finds herself in the role of looking solely for personal approval or acceptance in a professional position, Clarice is neither demanding nor rebellious. She asserts her values with a self-possessed presence and a matter of fact manner of expression.
She is able to gain crucial information from the most renowned serial killer alive as well as to learn from him. She succeeds where men have failed. By the time the movie ends, the hero has done the usual. She has saved the girl, destroyed the bad guy and graduated with honors; but something does not feel usual, ordinary. This hero won the day not by being an expert, male-identified FBI agent, but by breaking away and asserting herself as a woman who could rely on her feminine self to provide her with the special or “super” strength she needed.