Musings about “The Silence of the Lambs”

-by Alex

Silence of the Lambs is a heart-racing thriller that has arguably one of the most interesting characters in cinema history, Hannibal Lector, a famous psychologist who also has Antisocial Personality Disorder.  Hannibal Lector is played by Anthony Hopkins and at the beginning of the movie, he is approached by a young, rising FBI agent, named Clarice Starling, played by Jodie Foster.  Clarice has come to interview Hannibal, because she is currently on the hunt for a serial killer, nicknamed Buffalo Bill, who kidnaps young women and skins them in order to make a “suit” made out of human skin.  Since he is both a psychiatrist and a ruthless killer himself, Hannibal is the perfect person to ask for help to catch Buffalo Bill, and the rest of the movie is devoted to Hannibal’s relationship with Clarice as he helps her catch Buffalo Bill and as he toys with her psychologically.

Hannibal Lector only appears on screen for 16 minutes and yet, he has such a commanding presence over the entire movie.  Before the viewer even meets Hannibal, we hear that he is manipulative, dangerous, a monster, and a cannibal, and yet, when the viewer finally has the opportunity of meeting him, he appears genuine and even caring.  However, it soon become evident that this charming persona is only a disguise used to get what he wants, whether that is his freedom or traumatic memories from Clarice’s childhood.  He has no trouble tricking people into trusting him, and seems to enjoy that he is able to cleverly manipulate people to get what he wants from them.  On top of that, he is rude and makes very offensive remarks towards others without any regard to how offensive his comments are.  Again, he seems to enjoy being able to offend people so much with the words.  Finally, perhaps the most telling of all is his murderous nature.  Hannibal enjoys eating people (cleverly nicknamed Hannibal the Cannibal), and had been arrested for serving his dinner guests the liver from a man who he had killed.  In one scene, he is seen brutally attacking two guards, biting off one person’s cheek and then savagely beating the other to death, and then after the killing of both guards, he begins to sway peacefully to the classical music that had been playing in the background.  It was the exact same persona as he saw him standing in his cell when we first meet him, cool, calm, and collected, thus indicating his complete lack of guilt for the serious crime that he had just committed.

As I said above, the movie does an excellent job of creating Hannibal Lector, and his behaviors are consistent and similar to the behaviors of people who have Antisocial Personality Disorder.  Like most other people with this psychological disorder, Hannibal shows no remorse for hurting others, especially the people who gets in his way, and he is certainly fine with committing murder.  He manipulates people to get what he wants and amuses himself by offending and toying around with others, displaying a common symptom of people with Antisocial Personality Disorder, a disregard for other people’s rights.

Silence of the Lambs would have been an excellent movie if it only had Anthony Hopkins’ performance as Hannibal Lector, but it also has a great performance from Jodie Foster and an unbelievably well shot movie.  It is definitely worth watching, and it does a good job with showing how creepy and scary a person with Antisocial Personality Disorder can be.

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~ by psychology2 on April 28, 2010.

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