Saturday, January 10, 2009

Silence of the Lambs analysis - part 7: Events surrounding Starling's 'visit' to Gumb


Late in the movie, when Starling phones her supervisor, Jack Crawford, to inform him of her discovery that Gumb is attempting to assemble a suit composed of women's skins, Jack tells her that the FBI has traced Gumb through a sex reassignment center, and that he is on his way to Gumb’s house in Calumet City, Illinois to apprehend him. He tells Starling to continue on with her mission to get more information, which will help convict him once he is captured. But, it is soon realized that Crawford is headed toward an abandoned home, and Gumb is actually in a house in Belvedere, Ohio, where Starling is headed.

Above left: Starling phones Crawford from West Virginia to let him know about her discovery, regarding what Buffalo Bill is doing with his victims. Above right: Crawford responds that the FBI knows Bill's identity and where he lives, and that she is to continue on with her task to try and get information that will help convict him.

Crawford and his men think Jame Gumb is in a house in Calumet City; one of the men rings this house's doorbell (top left screencap). We the audience are next shown a view of a doorbell ringing (top right), and Gumb is then shown listening to the doorbell (above left), but when he answers his door (above right), Clarice Starling is standing there. The bell that Gumb (and the audience) hears is from Starling ringing at his door at the house in Belvedere; the house in Calumet City is empty. One important thing to recognize about this sequence of scenes, in which the point of view switches back and forth between the events at the two different houses – the intention being to confuse and then 'shock' the audience - is that this scenario is intended to 'set up' the audience for the shock and confusion which Clarice herself will experience as she begins to pursue Gumb in his basement, including her having to deal with Catherine Martin.

Above left: Catherine Martin, in Gumb's basement well, shouts at Gumb that she is going to kill his dog if he does not lower a telephone to her. Above right: When Starling arrives in Gumb's basement, she and Catherine have a somewhat frantic interaction.

As shown above, Gumb's dog is small and has white fur, and therefore, it represents Clarice’s childhood lamb (which we recall from the story she tells Lecter in Memphis, she had failed to save). Here in Gumb's house, an event takes place which indicates that, speaking metaphorically, she now saves it: Clarice’s showing up has happened just soon enough for Gumb’s hostage, Catherine Martin, who is standing in the well holding Gumb's dog captive, not to kill it. Also, as mentioned in part 3 of the analysis, Martin being in the well is symbolically analogous to Clarice being in the basement itself. Thus, when Clarice says to Catherine, "Tell that dog to shut up!" she is, metaphorically speaking, silencing her childhood lamb once again (recall that she had tried to silence it so that she would not be caught escaping from her childhood ranch with it).

Starling stands face to face with Gumb, just before shooting and killing him.

After Crawford's group, and other parties, have arrived at Gumb's house, Catherine, holding the dog, is escorted by EMS workers.


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