Analysis of Silence of the lambs

Screenplay Rating:


Executive Summary

The screenplay is recommended due to its effective establishment of character dynamics, tension, and atmosphere. However, there are areas that could be improved, such as the exploration of sexuality between characters and the development of dialogue. The screenplay would benefit from a stronger hook, clearer connections between emotional states and motivations, and more development of relationships and dynamics. Overall, the screenplay has notable points that create intrigue and anticipation for future developments.

  • The scene effectively establishes the dynamic between Clarice and Dr. Lecter, setting up their future interactions. (Scene 4)
  • The tension between Clarice and Dr. Chilton adds to the overall atmosphere. (Scene 4)
  • The scene creates a sense of unease and anticipation, drawing the audience further into the story. (Scene 4)
  • The use of visual techniques, such as blurring and spinning, effectively conveys Clarice's emotional turmoil. (Scene 5)
  • The scene provides important backstory and establishes Clarice's personal connection to the case. (Scene 5)
Areas of Improvement
  • The subtle, muted tug of sexuality between Crawford and Clarice could be explored more effectively to enhance the tension and complexity of their relationship. (Scene 2)
  • The dialogue could be more dynamic and engaging to further develop the characters and their motivations. (Scene 2)
  • The transition from Clarice leaving the questionnaire to returning to Dr. Lecter could be smoother. (Scene 5)
  • The dialogue between Clarice and Ardelia in the library could be more engaging and provide more insight into their relationship. (Scene 5)
  • The significance of the microfilm research on Dr. Lecter could be better established and connected to the overall plot. (Scene 5)
  • A stronger hook or inciting incident to grab the audience's attention and create a sense of urgency. (Scene 2)
  • More visual descriptions to enhance the atmosphere and mood of the scene. (Scene 2)
  • A clearer connection between Clarice's emotional state and her motivation to pursue the Buffalo Bill case. (Scene 5)
  • A stronger sense of urgency or stakes related to the investigation. (Scene 5)
  • More development of the relationship between Clarice and Crawford, as well as the dynamics within the FBI Academy. (Scene 5)
  • The mention of the psychobehavioral profile and the interview with serial killers sets up the main plot of the screenplay. (Scene 2)
  • The introduction of Dr. Hannibal Lecter as a brilliant psychiatrist and cannibal creates a compelling antagonist. (Scene 2)
  • The scene effectively sets up the dangerous and sophisticated nature of Dr. Lecter. (Scene 3)
  • The introduction of Barney as a supportive character adds depth to the scene. (Scene 3)
  • The scene effectively foreshadows the escalating tension and danger surrounding Lecter and the investigation. (Scene 6)
Summary In the movie, FBI trainee Clarice Starling impresses her instructor and fellow trainees with her skills during a training exercise. She is then chosen to interview the infamous serial killer, Dr. Hannibal Lecter. Clarice meets with Dr. Lecter multiple times, where he challenges her and provides valuable information about the killer they are pursuing, Buffalo Bill. Clarice continues her investigation, uncovering clues and connecting the dots. However, she faces setbacks and is taken off the case by her superiors. Determined to catch Buffalo Bill and save his captive, Catherine Martin, Clarice defies orders and continues her pursuit. As the movie progresses, the tension builds, leading to a climactic confrontation between Clarice and Buffalo Bill in his dark and sinister cellar. Will Clarice be able to save Catherine and apprehend the killer?

Screenplay Story Analysis

Story Critique The plot/story of the screenplay is engaging and suspenseful, with a strong focus on the relationship between Clarice and Dr. Lecter. The scenes involving their interactions are particularly tense and captivating. The character arcs of Clarice and Dr. Lecter are well-developed, with Clarice's determination and resourcefulness contrasting with Dr. Lecter's manipulative and enigmatic nature. The dialogue is sharp and effectively conveys the psychological dynamics between the characters. The visual elements, such as the barred cell and the drawings on the walls, add to the unsettling atmosphere of the story. However, there are some scenes that feel repetitive and could benefit from tighter pacing. Additionally, the scene involving the storage unit lacks conflict and could be further developed to increase tension. Overall, the story is compelling and well-executed, but could benefit from some refinements.
Suggestions: To improve the story, consider tightening the pacing in certain scenes to maintain a consistent level of tension throughout. Additionally, explore ways to heighten the conflict in the storage unit scene, perhaps by introducing a new obstacle or increasing the stakes. Consider further exploring the character arcs of secondary characters, such as Crawford and Chilton, to add depth and complexity to the overall narrative. Finally, ensure that each scene serves a clear purpose in advancing the plot and developing the characters, eliminating any unnecessary repetition.

Note: This is the overall critique. For scene by scene critique click here

Characters in the screenplay, and their arcs:

Clarice Starling

Clarice Starling is a determined and resourceful FBI trainee driven by a strong sense of justice. She is intelligent, quick-thinking, and empathetic but is haunted by past trauma. She is willing to take risks and go against authority to achieve her goals.

Jack Crawford

Jack Crawford is a seasoned FBI agent with a troubled past and a sense of urgency to catch serial killers. He recognizes Clarice's potential and values her skills, but can be secretive and manipulative at times. He is supportive of Clarice and acts as her mentor throughout the investigation. He is also willing to take risks to achieve his goal of catching Buffalo Bill.

Mr. Yow

Mr. Yow is a middle-aged man with a weathered face and a stoic demeanor. He speaks in a quiet but deliberate tone, as if carefully choosing his words. He always wears a worn baseball cap and a faded flannel shirt, giving him the appearance of a blue-collar worker. He is the owner of the storage unit and seems to take his job very seriously. He is always cautious and reserved, never giving away too much information about himself.

Dr. Lecter

Dr. Lecter is a brilliant and manipulative psychiatrist with a dark past. He possesses a deep understanding of the human mind, as well as valuable knowledge about the killer. He enjoys playing mind games and developing a complex relationship with Clarice while being dangerous and unpredictable.

Senator Martin

Senator Ruth Martin is a powerful and ambitious politician who is willing to do whatever it takes to catch the serial killer. She is initially skeptical of Clarice's abilities but eventually comes to trust and rely on her. Senator Martin has a close relationship with her daughter and is deeply protective of her. She can be abrasive and confrontational, but ultimately wants justice for the victims and closure for the families.

Catherine Martin

Catherine Martin is a young woman who is fiercely independent and determined to survive. She possesses a strong will and is not afraid to stand up for herself. Throughout the movie, she displays both courage and resourcefulness in her attempts to escape from Buffalo Bill's grasp. Despite being held captive and facing immense danger, she refuses to give up and believes that she can still find a way out. Her resilience is one of her most admirable qualities, and she is able to maintain her spirit and hope even in the darkest of circumstances.

Mr. Gumb

Mr. Gumb, also known as Buffalo Bill, is a sadistic and disturbed serial killer. He is manipulative, meticulous in his methods, and takes pleasure in his gruesome crimes. He is highly intelligent, but his obsession with his moths and his twisted idea of beauty add to his erratic and unpredictable behavior. He preys on vulnerable women and toys with his captives, adding to the suspense and terror of his character.

Character Arc Critique Suggestions
Clarice Starling Clarice begins as a capable and driven FBI trainee, but her past trauma haunts her and affects her interactions with others. As she becomes more immersed in the case and her bond with Dr. Lecter deepens, she begins to confront her past and acknowledge her vulnerabilities. This culminates in a dangerous and high-stakes confrontation with the killer, where she must rely on her skills and strength to save the victim and bring the killer to justice. She emerges from the experience stronger, more self-aware, and more committed to her pursuit of justice. The character arc for Clarice is well-developed and gripping, showcasing her growth as a character and her journey to confront her past trauma. However, at times the plot feels overly contrived to force her to confront her past and her relationship with Dr. Lecter can sometimes overshadow her character development.
To improve the character arc, the relationship with Dr. Lecter could be toned down slightly to allow for more emphasis on Clarice's personal growth and development. Additionally, there could be greater incorporation of Clarice's past trauma throughout the narrative, rather than only in select scenes. This would allow for a more nuanced understanding of her character and a deeper exploration of her struggles.
Jack Crawford At the beginning of the movie, Jack Crawford is tired and haunted by his past, but recognizes Clarice's potential and selects her for the assignment. As the investigation progresses, he becomes more focused and sharp, navigating the challenges of working with local law enforcement while maintaining a sense of urgency to catch the serial killer. At times, he manipulates Clarice and uses her as a pawn in his investigation, but ultimately recognizes her expertise and encourages her to trust her instincts. By the end of the movie, Jack is a supportive mentor to Clarice and willing to take risks to catch the killer. The character arc for Jack Crawford is well-developed and effectively portrays his growth throughout the movie. However, at times his actions toward Clarice can feel manipulative and leave the audience wondering about his true intentions.
To improve the character arc for Jack Crawford, it may be helpful to add more scenes that showcase his internal struggles and reveal more about his troubled past. This can help to give more context to his actions and make them feel less manipulative. Additionally, giving him a defining moment where he fully trusts and relies on Clarice can make his character arc feel more complete.
Mr. Yow At the beginning of the movie, Mr. Yow is shrouded in mystery and suspicion. He appears to be hiding something, and his reluctance to share information with Clarice only adds to the tension. However, as the plot unfolds, it becomes clear that Mr. Yow is a knowledgeable and reliable ally. He helps Clarice navigate the dangerous world of the storage unit and ultimately proves to be an invaluable asset. By the end of the movie, Mr. Yow is revealed to be a complex and multifaceted character, with hidden depths that were not immediately apparent. The character arc for Mr. Yow is interesting, but it could benefit from more development. While his transformation from enigmatic figure to trustworthy ally is satisfying, it feels somewhat predictable and lacking in nuance. Additionally, Mr. Yow's backstory and motivations are never fully explained, leaving some unanswered questions for the audience.
One way to improve Mr. Yow's character arc would be to provide more backstory and context for his actions. Perhaps he has a personal connection to the storage unit or a history of working with Clarice's family. Additionally, it might be interesting to explore Mr. Yow's relationship with the other characters in greater depth. Does he have any past conflicts or alliances that could complicate his interactions with Clarice and the other protagonists? Finally, revealing more about Mr. Yow's motivations and inner life would go a long way toward making him a more complex and engaging character.
Dr. Lecter At the beginning of the movie, Dr. Lecter sees Clarice as an opportunity to gain power and control through mind games. As the story progresses, he begins to develop a fascination and connection to Clarice, revealing more about his dark past and offering valuable insights into the killer's psychology. In the end, he ultimately uses his intelligence to negotiate his escape and freedom. However, as he walks away, he leaves behind a lingering sense of unease and ambiguity about his true motives and intentions. While Dr. Lecter's character is intriguing and captivating, his arc falls a bit flat towards the end. His escape is predictable and lacks the level of suspense that the rest of the movie builds up to. Additionally, the final scene leaves too many loose ends and questions about his ultimate goals.
To improve Dr. Lecter's character arc, it would be beneficial to add more depth to his relationship with Clarice. Maybe he can reveal more about his past and develop a sense of empathy towards her. Additionally, his escape could be reimagined to inject more tension and surprise into the story. Lastly, clarifying his motivations and leaving fewer ambiguities would give the audience a more satisfying conclusion.
Senator Martin Throughout the movie, Senator Martin goes through a character arc where she starts out as a tough and uncompromising politician who is determined to catch the killer, but is also somewhat dismissive of Clarice's abilities. However, as she works with Clarice and begins to understand the depths of the killer's depravity, she becomes more empathetic and starts to see Clarice as a partner rather than an obstacle. She also begins to realize how her actions as a politician have contributed to the culture of violence that allowed the killer to thrive. In the end, Senator Martin risks her own life to help capture the killer and make amends for her past mistakes. The character arc for Senator Martin is somewhat predictable and clichéd, with her going from a hard-edged politician to a more empathetic and self-aware person. While this is a common trope in movies, it can feel unearned and superficial if not handled well.
To improve the character arc for Senator Martin, the writer could focus more on her personal backstory and motivations for wanting to catch the killer. This could give her more depth and make her transformation more believable. Additionally, the writer could explore the moral gray areas that come with political power, and how Senator Martin's actions have both helped and hindered the investigation. Finally, the writer could make the stakes more personal for Senator Martin, perhaps by having the killer target someone close to her.
Catherine Martin Catherine's character arc in the screenplay is one of growth and transformation. At the beginning of the film, she is shown as a self-centered and privileged young woman who is not used to facing adversity. However, as she is taken captive by Buffalo Bill, she is forced to confront the reality of her situation and the true extent of her resilience. She gradually learns to rely on her own strength and becomes more adept at navigating the dangerous situation she finds herself in. Throughout the movie, she grows more resourceful and determined, and eventually succeeds in outsmarting her captor and securing her freedom. The character arc for Catherine Martin is generally well-constructed and effectively portrays her growth and development throughout the film. However, there are a few moments where her transition from spoiled rich girl to resourceful survivor could have been more clearly depicted. Additionally, some viewers may find that her portrayal is somewhat stereotypical and relies heavily on traditional gender roles, which could be seen as promoting problematic ideas about women and their roles in society.
To improve Catherine's character arc, it could be helpful to include a bit more detail in the earlier scenes that establish her character and her relationship with her mother. This could help audiences better understand where she is coming from and why she behaves the way she does. Additionally, it might be useful to challenge some of the more traditional gender roles that are at play in the film. For example, instead of simply relying on her physical abilities to escape, Catherine could also use her intelligence and problem-solving skills to outsmart her captor.
Mr. Gumb Mr. Gumb's character arc begins as a menacing and sinister killer, but as the story progresses, he becomes more unpredictable and erratic. His obsession with his 'woman suit' becomes more pronounced, leading to a climactic scene where he kidnaps a senator's daughter. However, during this final act, he begins to unravel and make mistakes, leading to his eventual capture. While his arc follows a traditional trajectory of a villain's downfall, it is enhanced by the layers of his disturbing obsession and twisted personality. The character arc effectively shows the downfall of a disturbed villain, but it could benefit from more development of Mr. Gumb's past and motivations. The focus on his obsession with his 'woman suit' can be one-dimensional at times, and more exploration of his psyche and past trauma could add depth to his character. Additionally, the final act could be heightened with more suspenseful buildup and a clearer sense of the stakes at hand.
To improve the character arc, adding flashbacks or more background information about Mr. Gumb's past could provide insight into his motivations and enhance the audience's investment in his character. Exploring other aspects of his twisted personality, such as his sadism or manipulative tactics, could also add depth to his character and make his eventual downfall more satisfying. Additionally, the climactic scene could benefit from more suspenseful buildup and a clearer sense of the stakes at hand, such as the senator's daughter being in more immediate danger.
Theme Theme Details Themee Explanation
Psychological manipulationThe theme of psychological manipulation is evident in the interactions between Clarice and Dr. Lecter. Lecter tests Clarice's credentials and makes inappropriate comments towards her, attempting to unsettle and control her. This theme is also present in the way Lecter manipulates others, such as Chilton and the other inmates.Psychological manipulation is a central theme in the screenplay, as it explores the power dynamics and manipulation tactics used by various characters.
Gender dynamicsThe theme of gender dynamics is explored through the interactions between Clarice and the male characters in the screenplay. Clarice faces dismissive and provocative behavior from Dr. Lecter, Chilton, and other male inmates. The screenplay also touches on the objectification and violence towards women, as seen in the scenes involving Buffalo Bill and his victims.Gender dynamics is an important theme in the screenplay, as it examines the challenges and power dynamics faced by women in a male-dominated field and the violence perpetrated against women.
Isolation and confinementThe theme of isolation and confinement is present in the scenes that take place in the asylum and the prison. Dr. Lecter is confined to his cell, and Clarice must navigate the isolated and controlled environment to gather information from him. The physical and psychological confinement of the characters adds to the tension and suspense of the screenplay.Isolation and confinement play a significant role in the screenplay, as they create a sense of claustrophobia and heightened tension for the characters.
Power and controlThe theme of power and control is explored through the interactions between Clarice and the various characters, particularly Dr. Lecter. Lecter exerts his power and control over Clarice through psychological manipulation and provocative behavior. The theme is also evident in the power dynamics between Clarice and her superiors, as well as the power dynamics between Buffalo Bill and his victims.Power and control are central themes in the screenplay, as they drive the actions and motivations of the characters and create tension and conflict.
Violence and its consequencesThe theme of violence and its consequences is present throughout the screenplay, particularly in the scenes involving Buffalo Bill and his victims. The violence perpetrated by Buffalo Bill and the consequences it has on the victims and their families are explored. The screenplay also touches on the psychological and emotional consequences of violence, as seen in the interactions between Clarice and Dr. Lecter.Violence and its consequences are important themes in the screenplay, as they highlight the dark and disturbing nature of the story and its impact on the characters.

Screenwriting Resources on Themes


Site Description
Studio Binder Movie Themes: Examples of Common Themes for Screenwriters
Coverfly Improving your Screenplay's theme
John August Writing from Theme

YouTube Videos

Title Description
Story, Plot, Genre, Theme - Screenwriting Basics Screenwriting basics - beginner video
What is theme Discussion on ways to layer theme into a screenplay.
Thematic Mistakes You're Making in Your Script Common Theme mistakes and Philosophical Conflicts
Goals and Philosophical Conflict
internal Goals The protagonist's internal goals evolve throughout the script, reflecting her need for validation, recognition, and advancement in her career as an FBI agent. She also seeks knowledge, healing, and closure from past traumas.
External Goals The protagonist's external goals also evolve throughout the script, reflecting her immediate challenges in solving the case, gathering evidence, and saving lives.
Philosophical Conflict The overarching philosophical conflict revolves around the clash between the protagonist's beliefs, values, and worldview, and the twisted and manipulative nature of characters like Dr. Lecter and Mr. Gumb. This conflict challenges the protagonist's beliefs about trust, morality, justice, and the nature of evil.

Character Development Contribution: The protagonist's goals and conflicts contribute to her development by challenging her beliefs, values, and worldview. They force her to confront her fears, vulnerabilities, and past traumas, and push her to grow, adapt, and become a stronger and more resilient individual.

Narrative Structure Contribution: The protagonist's goals and conflicts contribute to the narrative structure by providing a clear throughline and driving the plot forward. They create tension, suspense, and conflict, and propel the protagonist's journey towards solving the case and achieving her goals.

Thematic Depth Contribution: The protagonist's goals and conflicts contribute to the thematic depth of the screenplay by exploring themes of justice, morality, trust, power, control, and the nature of evil. They raise questions about the human capacity for good and evil, the consequences of one's actions, and the importance of integrity and resilience in the face of adversity.

Screenwriting Resources on Goals and Philosophical Conflict


Site Description
Creative Screenwriting How Important Is A Character’s Goal?
Studio Binder What is Conflict in a Story? A Quick Reminder of the Purpose of Conflict

YouTube Videos

Title Description
How I Build a Story's Philosophical Conflict How do you build philosophical conflict into your story? Where do you start? And how do you develop it into your characters and their external actions. Today I’m going to break this all down and make it fully clear in this episode.
Endings: The Good, the Bad, and the Insanely Great By Michael Arndt: I put this lecture together in 2006, when I started work at Pixar on Toy Story 3. It looks at how to write an "insanely great" ending, using Star Wars, The Graduate, and Little Miss Sunshine as examples. 90 minutes
Tips for Writing Effective Character Goals By Jessica Brody (Save the Cat!): Writing character goals is one of the most important jobs of any novelist. But are your character's goals...mushy?