Silence of the Lambs is frightening for several different reasons. I think the most horrifying thing for me in this viewing is the sheer unfairness of Dr. Hannibal Lecter being the bad guy who eats people.
Lecter is a psychiatrist, which means he has obtained pretty extensive medical training. That medical training included anatomy instruction, in precise detail. Since he’s a psychiatrist, his education also included far reaching education on the human mind and what makes humans tick. He had to be pretty smart to have completed the medical program, and to have been accepted to medical school in the first place. It is my understanding that before he was arrested for killing people, he had a thriving practice. Even after he was arrested, his standing in the medical community was simply tainted by his crimes. He was still a respected psychiatrist.
So in this movie, we have a brilliant doctor who knows exactly how to get into his victim’s heads and manipulate them into doing whatever he wants them to do before he kills them and cuts them up (as only an expert medical man can) and who also knows what parts of their bodies will offer the easiest and most tasty meals. This is the person that normal people have to try and protect themselves from.
Even when I saw the movie for the first time, I thought the powers that be would have a difficult time keeping Lecter locked up. He just seemed too smart and too cunning. I didn’t necessarily know he would escape, but I figured they would have to kill him or something because he could not really be contained.
Then, of course, there’s the point of Jack Crawford sending Clarice Starling into the lion’s den with Lecter. Perhaps he thought she would be able to soften Lecter up, since she was female and for all intents and purpose, pure and innocent. She had a purely good reason for wanting to catch the killer. It didn’t seem that she wanted the glory that would go with making the capture. She really wanted to get the killer off the street.
But did Jack Crawford really know that? What if he had been mistaken? Lecter was able to draw out of Clarice the feelings she had surrounding her father’s death and her torment at the death of the lambs. He was also able to pinpoint that she was tired of playing the “good ol’ boys” game with her colleagues at the FBI.
Could she have been persuaded to help Lecter, if not for her unwavering commitment to keeping the bad guys off the street? Under different circumstances where Lecter’s crimes might not have been so horrific, I think she could have turned into a helper for him. After all, once she realized Jack Crawford had lied to her and deceived her in pretty much the same way he tried to get her to deceive Lecter, she could have done something different. She could have succumbed to the expertise of Dr. Lecter.