Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Silence of the Lambs analysis - part 43: More on marionettes; rel. to the characters


In part 27 of the analysis, it was mentioned that Marcus Aurelius suggests the concept of marionettes (puppets operated from above by strings) in his book, Meditations. There is a scene in The Silence of the Lambs that takes place in Gumb's basement, in which a close-up shot of Catherine Martin shows her trying to tie a rope that will (Catherine hopes) pull Gumb's dog into the well she is being held captive in. If this specific shot in this scene, is 'combined' (in the mind's eye) with the earlier image seen of Gumb sitting at the top of the well, lowering a rope (on which is attached a waste bucket) to Catherine, the inference to be made is that Gumb (Lecter's/Satan's pupil, with Gumb representing evil Freemasons and Lecter representing evil hermaphroditic Jews) is 'pulling Martin's strings', within some metaphorical sense. However, since no rope is ever actually shown attached to any part of Catherine's body, the context of this 'pulling the strings' metaphor is one in which the 'strings' themselves are effectively invisible, i.e., there is a representation being made here whereby one entity is manipulating another, but this manipulation is 'hidden' from direct view. One way to interpret all of this is that the manipulating entity is Satan, since Gumb represents Satan's pupil, and the 'entity' being manipulated is some (subset of) 'common man', as represented by Martin.

A depiction and interpretation of the foregoing appear below. All quoted material is taken from the Meditations (Hammond translation):[a]

Gumb (Satan's pupil) lowers the waste bucket to Catherine.

"There is nothing to value in transpiring like plants or breathing like cattle or wild creatures; nothing in taking the stamp of sense impressions or jerking to the puppet- strings of impulse..." [Meditations 6.16]

Catherine tries to pull Gumb's dog into the well. (What we're supposed to do is 'pair' this shot with the one immediately above).

"Don't let this directing mind of yours be enslaved any longer - no more jerking to the strings of selfish impulse." [2.2]

Clarice has opened Frederica Bimmel's jewelry box. Note the small figurine of a woman - since Starling represents the Virgin Mary, and the figurine is a marionette (literally, 'little little Mary'), the figurine represents Clarice. As noted above, marionette is also a name for a puppet operated from above by strings.

Metaphorically speaking, Clarice is here looking for the 'source of motion' for the figurine - "Where are the strings?"

"Remember that what pulls the strings is that part of us hidden inside: that is the power to act, that is the principle of life, that, one could say, is the man himself. ..." [10.38]

In the box, Clarice finds these photos of Frederica Bimmel posing for the camera in her underwear. The indication is that sometimes, the Devil uses our vices to pull our strings.

a. Marcus Aurelius. Meditations. Trans. with notes Martin Hammond. London: Penguin Group, 2006. pp. 10, 49, 104.


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