I’d been thinking about Silence of the Lambs just the other day, so when I stumbled across it the other night while channel surfing, I set down the remote. SotL won five Oscars, including one for best adapted screenplay, so obviously the entire team did a lot of things right. But what I find most notable about this film from a writer’s perspective is the emphasis placed on motivation.
In SotL, motivation isn’t just a necessary bit of fuel propelling the character toward his goal; it’s a theme. Understanding why someone chooses to do something becomes a riddle, an obsession, even “food” of sorts for a flesh-starved sociopath. The story also gifts us with two kinds of motivation to think about, for the underlying desire of every significant character in SotL is to transform, and that kind of desire taps into subconscious motivation. Deeelicious!
Enter Dr. Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lecter who, as a former psychiatrist, is a master at dissecting (if not consuming) the subconscious mind. He may be the only person capable of unraveling the mystery of rampant serial killer, Buffalo Bill. When FBI student Clarice approaches him to do just that, Lecter deduces from one look at her cheap shoes what her obvious motivation is: to advance, to be something more than a poor West Virginian. When he reveals he’d like a room with a view instead of the enclosed walls he’s lived with for so long, a deal is struck. But Clarice later learns the deal was bum to begin with, and Lecter shuts down, putting the investigation in jeopardy. Though she was warned to never let Lecter inside of her head, she can’t resist when the devil asks for a dance – in exchange for information about what’s really beneath her desire to find Buffalo Bill and rescue his latest victim, a senator’s daughter by the name of Catherine… [Read more…]