One of the most enthralling sequences in The Silence of the Lambs is the first meeting between Clarice Starling and Dr. Hannibal Lecter, and it is a masterclass in visual storytelling. This piece will analyze this entire sequence shot-by-shot, explaining the cinematic techniques that director Jonathan Demme and cinematographer Tak Fujimoto use to tell this crucial portion of their story. We’ll be looking at different aspects of each shot including: composition, point of view, camera movement, pacing, and more. We’ll see how in a mere six minutes and three seconds, these 60 shots convey characterization, plot, and even crucial thematic ideas that would develop through the course of the film.
In 1991, dozens of happy accidents converged into one of the greatest thrillers of all time: The Silence of the Lambs. It is the most recent film to win Academy Awards in all five of the major categories (both leading actors, screenplay, director, and best picture). As that distinction may suggest, practically every aspect of the film boasts superlatives. The performances are exceptional. Ted Tally’s adaption of the screenplay structures the film with the familiar beats of the hero’s journey, but provides enough twists to keep us on edge. Jonathan Demme’s direction shows restraint and courage, and produces moments rife with tension, many of which do not exist on the page. The characters, technical work, and writing all cooperate towards a single goal: championing a theme of female strength and intellect in a world dominated by men, and the courage that it takes to confront true evil.
Over the last week, GoIntoTheStory.com has been walking through a script analysis of The Silence of the Lambs based on a scene-by-scene breakdown that I wrote. I have decided to re-produce that breakdown in its entirety here, and provide a link to the rest of the script analysis near the end of this piece. The goal here is to summarize the entire script scene by scene, which will make further analyses easier. Enjoy!