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Psychology in movies papers

In the film “The Silence of the Lambs” directed by Jonathan Demme, there are some visual elements created to heighten the dramatic tension of the film, as well as convey the psychology of the characters throughout the film. The opening scene of the film with FBI agent Clarice Starling, played by Jodie Foster, climbing up a training rope is one of the key scenes in portraying the personal struggle she faces of losing her father and the professional struggle of catching a serial killer. The scene where the brilliant psychiatrist, Dr. Hannibal Lecter, played by Anthony Hopkins, combines and explains the struggles of Agent Starling define the journey embarked upon in this film. Also, the color red is used subtly throughout the entire film as a precursor to some upcoming horrific event. Visually, as a whole, the film is quite a dark production. I believe the scene in which Agent Starling shoots and kills the serial murderer, “Buffalo Bill,” where total darkness gives way to light is symbolic of Agent Starling’s triumph over the struggles, which she faced throughout the film. The use of metonymy, color, and lighting by Jonathan Demme in “The Silence of the Lambs” creates heightened dramatic tension throughout the film.

In the opening scene of the film, FBI agent in training Clarice Starling, is climbing a rope alone up a steep incline hand-over-hand. This is a perfect metonymic element into the struggles the Agent Starling will face throughout this film. We first learn that the professional struggle she faces is working with a brilliant, murderous cannibal in trying to gain insight which will enable the FBI to capture the serial killer, “Buffalo Bill.” Later we learn, after “Buffalo Bill” had claimed his next victim that her personal struggle deals with the death of her father who was also a cop and killed in the line of duty. The funeral of one of “Buffalo Bill’s ” victims brings back the memory of her father’s funeral. The light during this scene has a yellowish tint, signifying that this is a flashback, a look into the mind of a trouble young girl. The death of her father and her mother a few years earlier, resulted in the sounds that haunt her to this day. She went to live with her mother’s cousin on a ranch where they slaughtered lambs. She tried to save one of them the night she heard them screaming. She was sent to live in an orphanage after this incident.

Over the course of the film, Clarice and Dr. Lecter meet four times. In the last meeting, Dr. Lecter explains her struggles and how it is that she plans to solve them. During this scene, the camera moves to closer angles on their faces to create a sense of intimacy. When Lecter explains that she thinks if she saves the girl that “Buffalo Bill” has claimed for his next victim, it will symbolize the lamb that she was unable to save and stop the screaming of the lambs she hears in her sleep every night. The camera closes in on Lecter’s face, almost so that the whole screen is filled with his forehead. This gives you a sense of the magnitude of this scene. These scenes together with the metonymy of the first scene are basically defining the psychology of the character, Clarice Starling, and how other characters use her weaknesses to create a heightened sense of tension for the audience.

Demme used the color red throughout the film to elevate the viewer’s sense of tension and suspense. It signifies a previous horrific event or an event to come. For example, a red light is used on Clarice and Dr. Chilton when he shows her a photograph of a dispensary nurse Lecter attacked while explaining the rules of interaction with him. Second, a red handkerchief is draped over the decapitated head of an ex-patient of Dr. Lecter’s. A series of red shows up in the scene when Lecter is let out of his cell for the first time to meet with the Senator. There is a red stripe on the plane, one man is wearing a red tie, another a red scarf. The most apparent use of red to heighten tension is the scene where Lecter is being held in a barred cell in the middle of a huge room. The walls are painted with stripes of red and white. This eventually leads to the most gruesome scene of the entire film. Lecter kills both of the police guards, skins one of them and hangs his skin in the cell and de-faces the other and uses that as a method of escape. The last hint of red is used in the plane when the FBI is certain that they have identified “Buffalo Bill” and are on their way to apprehend him. A red light is used over head while Agent Crawford is on the phone talking to Agent Starling and a photograph of the alleged “Buffalo Bill” is being shown. The viewers are fully aware now that this photograph is of the wrong guy. The color red, being the most dominant color and already having a meaning of danger in the minds of viewers, is the perfect choice to raise tension and suspense throughout the film.

The movie, overall, is a very dark film. In one of the last scenes, Clarice enters the house of the real “Buffalo Bill,” which begins the climax of tension and suspense in the film. She follows him down into the basement where the victim is being kept. “Buffalo Bill” cuts the power so that they are in total darkness. The only way the viewer is able to see is through the eyes of “Buffalo Bill” who is wearing night vision goggles that give off a green tint. When we finally see light, it is from the shots fired by Agent Starling’s gun. The gun gives off quick flashes of light for the viewer to see the fear on Clarice’s face. This is one of the most compelling scenes in the film due to the choice of lighting, because of the dramatic tension it creates. As she fires her last shot, she shoots out a window in the basement, which transforms the scene from total darkness to total light. This is symbolic of the obvious good overcoming evil, but also Clarice’s triumph over her struggles, both personal and professional.

In conclusion, Director Jonathan Demme did an excellent job of portraying heightened dramatic tension and the psychology of characters through metonymic elements, colors, and lighting. The use of the metaphorical scene laid a complete foundation into the mind of Agent Clarice Starling. The color red is associated with tension throughout the film creating that heightened sense of suspense. The lighting also played a crucial role in this film. The overall appearance of darkness set the mood for this morbid, terrifying piece. The contrast of darkness to light, at the end, is the culminating factor of all the outward struggles as well as the struggles from within the main character. As a whole, this film is packed with visual elements that provide a fundamental significance in helping the viewer feel the tension created by the character of Agent Clarice Starling.

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