Based on the book by Thomas Harris, Silence of the Lambs  starring Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster is one of my all-time favorite movies. I remember watching the infamous basement-night-vision-goggles scene for the first time. At that time, night vision goggles weren’t readily available online, and my teenage self had definitely never seen anything remotely like those alien and dehumanizing green lenses. The thought that someone could watch me in the dark while I was unaware of their presence was the most horrifying thing I’d ever seen.

But as an adult, having rewatched the movie numerous times over the years and again now, it’s Harris’s brilliant writing paired with the acting chops of Hopkins and Foster that make this movie a classic.

My favorite scene is when Clarice Starling confronts Hannibal Lector in his makeshift cell. The time bomb is ticking, and Catherine will die at the hands of Buffalo Bill unless Clarice agrees to Hannibal Lector’s quid pro quo.

Foster does an astounding job with Clarice’s monologue as she describes coming downstairs as young girl and hearing the lambs being slaughtered.

Silencing the screaming of the lambs becomes Clarice’s motivation for the entire movie.

Clarice attempts to save a single lamb. But it’s so heavy that she can’t carry it far, and ultimately, she fails. As we know, all good plots have try/fail cycles that escalate. Clarice has failed and her lamb is slaughtered.

But Clarice’s life has been put onto a trajectory that will intersect with Hannibal Lector. And Clarice must again save the lamb. She must save Catherine from Buffalo Bill, but more than that, she herself will be the sacrificial lamb in order to trap a serial killer. Being psychologically invaded by Lector, Clarice sacrifices herself. And again, in the infamous night-vision goggle scene, she puts herself in harm’s way to rescue Catherine.

The end result is a character who endears herself to the viewer through sacrifice and resiliency.  Silence of the Lambs is equally horrifying and satisfying. We care deeply about Clarice due to Foster’s brilliant scene about saving her lamb and failing. We want her to succeed. We need her to succeed. And ultimately, we need her to be redeemed. 

Quid pro quo, Clarice. And thank you.

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