The Silence of the Lambs Film Review


Human beings always desire to discover the hidden truth about their existence. Therefore, they may turn out as psychopaths, who have no ability to partake in love. They might decide to follow their selfish desires far from the established norms of the society. One of the things that psychopaths struggle most with is the social system of rights and wrongs. Psychopaths question the responsibility of one to decide on behalf of the entire humanity what is right and what is wrong. In the process, it is easier to adapt behaviors that are antithetical to the established norms of the society. Such behaviors are inherently built within the psychosocial formation of human beings. People are inclined to follow the behavioral patterns, as it is expected from them by the society in which they live. Yet it is possible that many of them will fall victims to the innate desire to discover what is hidden by the society. The film, The Silence of the Lambs, depicts the effects that psychopathological views can have on some people, and their understanding of such ideas, as sexuality, human desires, murder, and the rights of women. The current paper examines psychopathology by implementing Freud’s psychoanalysis theory, and concludes that people’s perception of what constitutes acceptable norms in the society is controlled by their innate characteristics, which are suppressed by the society.

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According to Freud, character formation can be understood from the point of innate behaviors and desires that people harbor naturally in their beings. To this end, the behaviors exhibited by people, living in a community, are likely to be a reflection of what that particular community wants. One of the contagious areas of interest is the formation of sexuality and moral behaviors, which have been regulated by the norms and culture of the society. Once people are born into a society, they face a system of acceptable behaviors that they must abide for the rest of their lives to be good in accordance to standards established by the society. However, one or two individuals will be inclined to becoming serial killers, sexual perverts, or social psychopaths, regardless of the kind of experiences they may have in their childhood.

The movie The Silence of the Lambs fits Freud's theory in many ways, as it describes the formation of antisocial behaviors as a part of the natural human development. For instance, in the film, Dr. Hannibal Lecter is a respected man in the society, having attained highest professional training as a medical doctor. One would expect that such a highly trained and civilized person would be familiar with the civility of the society when it comes to people’s lives. Yet, it is this doctor, who develops his innate cannibalistic behaviors and causes harm to the society. Dr. Lecter is not apologetic regarding his immoral and unacceptable inclination when approached in prison. Instead, he offers to help the detective to catch the other serial killer, who remains in the public. Similarly, the detective is well aware of the dangers that the cannibals pose to individuals like her, to women, who are the majority victims of sexual and psychopathic behaviors. However, she still opts to face the danger. In this way, The Silence of the Lambs can be thought of as reinforcing the notion of the behaviors as complex interactions associated with diverse psychic structures.

Roger and Wallwork’s analysis of religious formation also explains the cinematic development of behaviors, seen in the film The Silence of the Lambs. Paden’s model is based on the fact that human behavior represents the religious convictions and pursuits of people. In this case, he argues that religious life is fused through social systems as opposed to it being a distinct practice. The movie The Silence of the Lambs depicts behavior of the main characters, which is common to most societies nowadays. The only difference is that social norms and practices tend to suppress such strange religious inclinations that depict immoral or irrational behaviors of the society. For instance, in the film, violence in the society is depicted as a normal occurrence that should not take people by surprise.

Throughout the movie, violence is glorified in the way the villains attack and dismember their victims. The insane man is proud of spattering his semen onto the face of a woman. He even says that he feels the smell of her vagina and that is the reason why he must splash her with his semen. Also, the villain is engaged in bloody and horrific activities such as skinning dead victims, beating people to death, hanging bodies of his dead victims on the wall in a prison cell, among many other horrific scenes in the film. All these activities can be viewed as ritualistic practices that call for the right of the participants to pass to their religious views. Religion is reduced to social construct whereby gods, moral codes, and distinction between sacred and profane are all products and instruments to understand culture.

Freud’s concept of social symptoms, resulting from certain emotional and unconscious experiences, can also be used to reinforce the behaviors of the people in the movie. Dr. Lecter is emotionally inclined to disobey the norms of the society that regulate people's views on life, human sexuality, and sanctity of human interactions. To this end, the villain finds himself in a constant search to kill, even when he does not have a reason to do so. For example, when Dr. Lecter is escaping from prison, he hugs the guard, even though the guard is not trying to stop him from his escape. The experiences of victims in the hands of the villains are, to say the least, brutal. It is as though the villains have descended into the darkest dungeons. The scenes, depicted in the film, are based on strong convictions on the part of the participants. Women, represented by Clarice Starling, are portrayed as vulnerable individuals, who are ignorant of the dangers that they face in their lives. This is the reason why so many of them fall victims in the hands of the villains. The social norms, however, force them to enter the environments that they cannot avoid during their interactions with other people in the society. Throughout the film, women are guided by emotions and unconscious experiences in their lives that direct the way they behave in the hands of their victims. The film reinforces the stereotype that women are contributors to the challenges that they face, implying that nothing can be done to save womanhood from the grip of the society, of which they are a part.

Freud’s depiction of the superego, as a representation of social prohibitions and ideals, emanating from the internal representation of the morals and ideals of the society, also helps to explain the behaviors of the characters in the movie. According to Freud, most people are likely to alter behaviors that are in contrast to social norms and ideals just because they are prohibited by the society. Curiosity is a feature that is found in the innate principles of human beings. Yet, this behavior comes out only when the society prohibits things that may appeal to curiosity. For example, in the film, serial killers are not exposing their behaviors until they learn that the society prohibits murder of any kind. Dr Lecter, for instance, develops this behavior in the advanced age. The women, who fall victims to deviant behaviors of men, such as throwing of sperm on the face of women, are also curious to discover something that was hidden from them by the society.

The violence, committed by men and women living in the society, is depicted as normal incidents that happen whenever people live in a community. For instance, the insane man is inclined to harassing women because he has seen how the society harassed women. Consequently, The Silence of the Lambs is a depiction of the pervasive nature of human beings that must be controlled through norms, values, and cultures espoused by people, living in a community. The film brings out the fact that when human beings are left on their own, they show their inherently evil side. They lack natural inclination to what is considered to be good, but would naturally do what is considered evil, until they face a system of norms. In a similar way, the film is a depiction of how the society views religious and cultural formations, and how it views a struggle between the good and the evil. Those who decide on what is good also decide on what is bad. However, the wrong doers do not decide on what is wrong, they only engage in what others consider as evil. Therefore, Freud’s model of development of psychopathic behaviors is supported in the film through the adoption of behaviors that are antithesis to the social norms.


From the above analysis of the movie The Silence of the Lambs, it can be concluded that societies are dominated and controlled by a system of values and norms, developed by people living in these societies. The norms, values, and moral code of ethics are thought of as universals that ought to be practiced by every member of the society. However, humans have inherently build characters that seek to contrast with what the society wants. To this end, they are always seeking to be at loggerheads with society’s patterns of behavior. It is done by depicting deviant behaviors like sexual immorality, murder, stereotyping of women, among many others as their preferred behaviors. The villains always think that by engaging in what is abhorred by the society, they are establishing a specific form of religiosity, which is at best a social construct. Consequently, they develop their own systems of behavior that are antithetical to the social norms but reflect the human innate feature of being naturally evil. Therefore, in order to be righteous, the person has to make a choice, but to be evil, the person may just adhere to his/her natural evil side. To this end, the film presents such characters as the insane man, the trained psychologist doctor, the woman detective, and numerous victims of murder, who have chosen to pursue the convictions of their innate characters. More importantly, the film is a representation of how culture clashes with religion in the contemporary world. While religion has always been thought of in terms of divine and sacred behaviors, it is argued in the film that religion can also be viewed in terms of the choices that people make. This idea is reinforced in the Freud’s model of psychopathological analysis, where he argues that religion is a social construct. The implication is that without the social systems that develop values and norms, a society would be dominated by people doing evil, yet, no one should condemn them.


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