The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Directed by: Jonathan Demme
Apart from a movie about trying to catch an active serial killer, The Silence of the Lambs is a tale about manipulation. Every character in this movie is trying to manipulate someone else! It’s nearly diabolical!
Our main character Clarice Starling, wonderfully played by Jodie Foster, is an FBI agent-in-training, not yet graduated from the FBI academy in Quantico, Virginia. She is tapped by one of her instructors, Jack Crawford, the head of the FBI’s behavioral sciences division, to go and talk to one of the most dangerous and notorious serial killers, Dr. Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lecter. Lecter is housed in a maximum security prison and kept under constant guard.
Crawford tells Starling that he tapped her for the assignment because he had been impressed with her so far and that she shouldn’t expect anything to come of the interview, but to make the attempt to get Lecter to answer a questionnaire anyway.
This represented the first manipulation. What Crawford was really hoping for was that Lecter, who had likely not seen a woman in many years, would open up to the attractive agent Starling where men had failed. Crawford held back the truth from Starling, that he had really hoped that Lecter could provide some insight into the motivations of an active serial killer known as Buffalo Bill. In so doing, Crawford was attempting to manipulate both Starling and Lecter for his own purposes.
Dr. Lecter turns out to be far too smart to be manipulated and sees through Crawford. He begins his own attempts to manipulate Crawford, through Starling, in order to get what he wants, or so he says, a room with a view. He manipulates Starling by getting her to suspect that Crawford is only trying to sleep with her, and further manipulates her into satisfying his insatiable need to delve into people’s psyches and darkest memories, all for the purpose of further manipulation.
Starling ends up attempting to manipulate both Crawford and Lecter to further her advancement, and Lecter opens up to her and begins helping her with the Buffalo Bill case, all with his own ulterior motives in mind.
Meanwhile, Buffalo Bill the serial killer uses manipulation to gain victims, feigning to be a helpless sap just like Ted Bundy did. His captive, kept at the bottom of a well, attempts to manipulate Buffalo Bill in order to get out. The captive’s mother attempts to manipulate Buffalo Bill through her television pleas for her daughter’s release, and later both manipulates and gets manipulated by Lecter, both seeking to get what they want.
The whole thing was exhausting, really. And even though I felt it was an excellent movie worthy of every Oscar nod and nomination, I can’t help but feel I was manipulated into watching it, and manipulated into uttering quotes from the movie for the rest of my days.
“…with some fava beans and a nice Chianti…”
“It puts the lotion in the basket and it does this whenever its told.”
Awesome flick. One of the best ever.