The Silence of the Lambs
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A Note Regarding Spoilers

The following FAQ entries may contain spoilers. Only the biggest ones (if any) will be covered with spoiler tags. Spoiler tags have been used sparingly in order to make the page more readable.

For detailed information about the amounts and types of (a) sex and nudity, (b) violence and gore, (c) profanity, (d) alcohol, drugs, and smoking, and (e) frightening and intense scenes in this movie, consult the IMDb Parents Guide for this movie. The Parents Guide for The Silence of the Lambs can be found here.

When Catherine Martin (Brooke Smith), the daughter of Tennessee Senator Ruth Martin (Diane Baker), is kidnapped by a serial killer known only as Buffalo Bill (Ted Levine), F.B.I. agent-in-training Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) is called upon to interact with psychopathic, cannibalistic killer and psychiatrist Doctor Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) who may have insights into the identity of Buffalo Bill.

The movie is based on The Silence of the Lambs, a 1988 novel by American writer Thomas Harris. The novel was adapted for the movie by American screenwriter Ted Tally. The Silence of the Lambs won the 1992 Academy Award for Best Motion Picture. There have since been two movie sequels, Hannibal (2001) and Hannibal Rising (2007) and one prequel Red Dragon (2002), also based on novels by Thomas Harris. Prior to The Silence of the Lambs, there was another Hannibal Lecter movie, Manhunter (1986), which was based on Harris' 1981 novel, Red Dragon.

What does the title mean?

Clarice tells Lecter how she was orphaned at 10 years of age and sent to live on a sheep and horse ranch in Montana. One night she awoke to a terrible screaming and discovered the rancher was slaughtering the spring lambs. She grabbed a lamb and tried to rescue it. When she was found the next day, the rancher sent her away to live in an orphanage. The experience had a traumatic psychological effect on Clarice that haunts her for life. Lecter concludes that Clarice's fervent desire to save Catherine Martin will ultimately help her to silence the sound of the lambs screaming in her mind.

A picture of one of Buffalo Bill's victims has the year 1989 on it, so it must be either 1989 or the beginning of 1990. This is also implied when Chilton mentions the date of Hannibal's attack on a nurse (July 8th, 1981), and his remark that Hannibal has not seen a woman in 8 years. This presumes that the nurse was indeed the last woman Hannibal came into contact with, which is a reasonable assumption, given that Hannibal was locked up in a dungeon with only male orderlies.

Quid pro quo is Latin for "what for what" or "something for something." It refers to a reciprocal exchange. In the context of the movie, Lecter promises to feed information about Buffalo Bill to Clarice but only if she will tell him things about herself in return.

Roden (Dan Butler) and Dr Pilcher (Paul Lazar) identify the one taken from the victim's throat as a Death's-Head moth (Acherontia styx), a species found only in Asia. In reality, the cocoon was made from Tootsie-Rolls and gummy bears, in case the actress swallowed it. Photos of a real Death's Head moth can be seen here.

The song is "Goodbye Horses" by Q Lazzarus.

Aside from the obvious answers like Hannibal undoing his cuffs with a piece of the pen he stole from Chilton, the bigger issue is that Boyle and Pembry didn't have the kind of respect for Hannibal's inventive genius that Barney did at the institution in Baltimore. Essentially, they considered Hannibal to be merely a prisoner to babysit. Hannibal's plan from the beginning was to get himself transferred away from Chilton (whom he considered a tormentor). If you watch the beginning of the escape scene, you can easily see the mistakes Boyle and Pembry make: Boyle puts the tray on the floor near Hannibal when he rolls up the sketches (with the sketches placed on the table that Hannibal eats from, this may have also been part of Hannibal's plan; Boyle probably should've handed the tray to Pembry.) Pembry, when removing the key from the lock, is standing around much too casually, not watching Hannibal closely enough, and even turns his back on him and begins to walk out of the cage.) Additionally, Boyle probably should not have been allowed to carry a pocket knife as a personal item when working with so dangerous a prisoner. In the end, Hannibal, over the course of a few days or so that he was incarcerated in Memphis, had ample enough time to observe both men and to discern the weaknesses in their procedures.

Often in film, when a prisoner escapes from handcuffs without a key, a small, thin metal object is used. Until the release of this film, it'd been done many times by other characters in other movies. So it wasn't too hard for the writers to convince us that Hannibal could do the same thing. Also, he's an inventive genius, which makes it even more believable. In Thomas Harris' novel, the escape is almost exactly the same. Hannibal does steal a pen, though it wasn't Chilton's, it belonged to an attendant who had carelessly left it behind. Hannibal spends weeks cutting the shaft of the ink cartridge using only a small burr on a bolt that holds his bunk bed against the wall of his cell. When he has a length of the shaft cut to the right size, he cuts 2 small grooves in it lengthwise. He hides it in his cheek, and a scan with a metal detecting wand misses it. In his new cell, while guarded by Pembry and Boyle, he uses the pen tip to bend the section of the shaft outward, making a key that he uses to undo the cuffs. The movie makes the scene a bit simpler, probably to save time and control the pacing.

Contrary to how the movie portrayed it, the building he escapes from is Pittsburgh's Soldiers and Sailors National Military Museum and Memorial, not a Memphis courthouse. See here for details.

Her suspicions are aroused when "Gordon" asks if Frederika Bimmell was "a great big fat person." Lecter pointed out that all of the victims were larger women, because the killer wants their skins to fit onto a man's body. That Gumb's first thought of a woman he didn't otherwise recognize was her size was enough to make Starling want to find out more. Once inside his house, Clarice recognizes the Death's Head moth in the living room. Gumb gives his name as "Jack Gordon." Those initials, J.G., are consistent with "Jame Gumb" and "John Grant," both aliases named by Crawford.

How does the movie end?

Following Lecter's advice -- that Bill covets that which he sees everyday -- Clarice drives to Belvedere, Ohio to talk with the parents and friends of the first victim, Frederika Bimmel. In looking over Frederika's bedroom, Clarice notices the the triangular gussets on Frederika's dresses match the pieces of skin Bill cut from one of his victims. Clarice calls Jack Crawford (Scott Glenn) to inform him that Bill is making a "woman suit" of real skin. Crawford is already in route to Chicago, having identified Bill as Jame Gumb, but they find that the house where he's supposedly living has been abandoned. Clarice continues to poke around in Belvedere and is eventually led to the house of "old Mrs Littman." Mrs Littman doesn't live there any more, but the current resident, who calls himself Jack Gordon, offers to give her Mrs Littman's son's business card and invites Clarice inside to wait. When she notices spools of thread and a Death's-Head moth, she realizes that Jack Gordon is really Jame "Buffalo Bill" Gumb. She pulls her gun on him, but Gumb leads her on a wild goose chase into the basement, where he has Catherine Martin imprisoned in a well. Gumb dons a night vision mask and turns out the lights, leaving Clarice to feel around in the dark. When he makes the mistake of cocking his gun, Clarice shoots him. Catherine is subsequently rescued. In the final scenes, Clarice is shown graduating from the Academy. At the party that follows, she receives a phone call from Lecter, calling from the airport on the island of Bimini in the Bahamas. He assures her that he's not about to come looking for her and requests that she extend him the same courtesy, which Clarice cannot do, of course. He then says that he must hang up because "I'm having an old friend for dinner," as he watches Dr. Frederick Chilton deplane.

The closing, where Hannibal says: "I'm having an old friend for dinner" as he watches Dr. Chilton deplane, strongly suggests that Chilton ended up as one of Hannibal's meals. A small reference was made in the sequel novel Hannibal, where it was mentioned that Chilton disappeared seven years earlier while on vacation, strongly suggesting Hannibal had gotten his revenge (albeit in the novel, Chilton disappeared in Jamaica, not the Bahamas). However, this is never specifically stated in the sequel movie. The only reference to Dr. Chilton in Hannibal is made by Barney, when he says that Lecter, when possible, preferred to eat "the rude," and Dr. Chilton "was a bad man," which also strongly implies Chilton became Hannibal's victim.

There are two schools of thought on this. One could certainly argue that The Silence of the Lambs is a sequel to Manhunter, since it features three of the same characters from Manhunter, that is, Hannibal Lecter, Jack Crawford, and Dr Frederick Chilton (played respectively by Brian Cox, Dennis Farina, and Benjamin Hendrickson in Manhunter and Anthony Hopkins, Scott Glenn, and Anthony Heald in The Silence of the Lambs). On the other hand, Manhunter was not a successful film, which is why Dino De Laurentiis chose not to produce this film. When The Silence of the Lambs was released, it was not marketed as a sequel to Manhunter. All references from the book that mention Will "the Red Dragon" Graham have been excised from the film. The two returning cast members, Frankie Faison and Dan Butler, play different roles. It's also worth noting that in early drafts, when the producers were not sure if they could use the characters from Manhunter, Ted Tally changed those characters' names to cut all ties with Manhunter. They were eventually changed back. However, given that Tally also wrote the screenplay for Red Dragon, which featured three out of four actors returning to their roles, including Faison playing his Silence role, it is more likely that Manhunter is meant to be part of a separate continuity, while Red Dragon is meant to be a direct prequel to The Silence of the Lambs.

There are some differences between the Workprint version and the Theatrical Release. The Workprint is more or less a final cut of the movie. Beside many minor changes, here and there are some scenes, which were removed in the Theatrical Version. The image quality of the Workprint is especially in dark scenes pretty bad. The Workprint got an alternate Soundtrack. In some parts there is no or different music and in other parts the same music compared to the Thatrical Version. For example at the beginning when Starling runs through the wood. The Workprint features a different dark/haunting music with a musical box motive. Furthermore all the Credits and the location names are missing in the Workprint. A detailed comparison between both versions with pictures can be found here.

In the novel Red Dragon, Will Graham calls Lecter a "pure sociopath," but makes a point in mentioning that he only calls him this because a more appropriate term doesn't exist, meaning Lecter doesn't actually fit any psychological profile.This is echoed in the film version of The Silence of the Lambs, where Dr. Chilton refers to Lecter as a "pure psychopath," but given Chilton's incompetence, it makes sense that he would term Lecter's pathology so simply. Another reference to Graham's description in Red Dragon is made when Clarice tells a young security guard in the Tennessee asylum that "they don't have a name" for what Lecter is. According to the film's director, Jonathan Demme, Lecter is a good man trapped in an insane mind. Anthony Hopkins plays him as a refined, eloquent and seductive character who is very careful and cunning in his crimes. This is more in line with a sociopathic pathology, as sociopaths are known to be more organized in their actions. If you consider the prequel novel Hannibal Rising to be canon (which many fans of the Lecter mythology don't), it is suggested that Hannibal's pathology is a result of irreparable trauma he suffered as a child; however, others contest this simple summary of the novel, and maintain that Lecter's childhood trauma is merely one, if not the main event that causes his already sociopathic tendencies to manifest themselves at a young age; this is suggested by Hannibal continuing to murder people, even after dealing with the people responsible for the trauma. In other words, Lecter would have become a serial killer anyway, but events from his childhood simply accelerated the process and provided him with a special focus. Some viewers even maintain that Lecter isn't actually insane at all but does horrific things simply because he wants to and is smart enough to get away with them. They maintain that the people in the novels and films refer to Lecter as insane simply because it's easier to term him as such; it gives them a false sense of security and makes them feel that they know how Lecter's mind works when they actually have no idea. Simply put, it's possible that Lecter is a sociopath or a psychopath but, considering Graham's description, it's much more likely that Lecter is just pure evil.

Over the years that Hannibal is incarcerated, Barney develops respect for Lecter's ingenuity and intelligence, not to mention, respects how dangerous Lecter is. Lecter develops respect for Barney's courteous and kind manner. In the novel, Lecter and Barney have a short exchange before Lecter is transferred: Lecter thanks Barney for being decent to him, and Barney accepts and wishes him well.

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