Monday, January 5, 2009

Silence of the Lambs analysis - part 6: Certain 'missing' intervening events


Above left: Miggs throws some of his semen on Starling's face while she is walking away from the area of Lecter's cell, after her first interview of Lecter. Above right: A few moments later, after Clarice has gone back and talked to Lecter for a short time, we see another closeup view of her face while she is on her way back to her car after exiting the institution, and absolutely no sign of Miggs' semen remains on her. The assumption the audience is supposed to make is, of course, that she went into a women's restroom prior to exiting the institution and washed it off. The symbolic meaning of showing her clean face and hair is that after the Miggs incident she is 'still a virgin', that is, she is undefiled within some context; this fits with her being a representation of the Virgin Mary.

A later scene than the one discussed above, shows Starling inside the storage unit where Lecter's clues ("yourself" and "Hester Mofet") have sent her. After she has worked her way well inside the unit, with the only light being that from the flashlight she's holding (right-hand screencap above), there is a loud 'clunking' noise that sounds like something heavy being dropped. Starling had left the roll-up entrance door to the unit propped partially open (supported by a car jack, as shown in the left-hand screencap above), after passing through it, but she does not respond to the clunking noise by going over to the door to check it, to see if the noise was due to its falling shut. Instead, Clarice merely continues on her search for clues.

Then later, at Starling's second interview of Lecter, it is casually inferred, by the fact that no mention of the issue is made, that she had earlier had no trouble exiting the unit. What we're supposed to realize here is that the door did in fact slam shut and trap her in the unit, but that something close to a miracle occurred, and allowed her to nevertheless get out of the unit.

The owner of the storage facility and his driver were waiting outside while Starling was in the unit (with the driver in a car, as shown at left), and thus they could, theoretically, have re-opened the door for her, but such an event is never actually shown - the audience is forced to assume that one or more intervening physical events have taken place, but at the same time, we're left with an uncertain feeling as to what, if anything, actually transpired such that Starling could exit the unit.

Note the similarity of the two scene sequences discussed above: the Miggs incident, then Starling's clean face on exiting the institution seemingly being unexplained; and the sound of the storage unit door possibly shutting with Starling inside, then subsequent scenes being shown as if there was never an issue of her getting trapped in the unit. In both cases, the audience is to assume some intervening physical event(s) and at the same time derive a symbolic significance from the fact that no such events are actually shown.


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