"Buffalo Bill" and the significance of the moth.
"Billy" wants to change. Benjamin Raspail was the name of the man whose head Clarice found in the "Yourself storage". Later it turns out that this was one of "Buffalo Bill’s" first victims. They where lovers, but Raspail had become frightened, "Billy" had killed a tramp and done things with his skin. Then it was Raspail’s turn. Dr. Lecter comments on the incident as follows: "I just think of him as kind of experiment. A fledgling killer's first effort at transformation."
What Dr. Lecter means becomes clearer when we get to know that "Billy" is obsessed with moths. He places the pupa of the "Deadheads moth" in his victims’ throats. Dr. Lecter explains this with the words: "The significance of the moth is change. Caterpillar into chrysalis or pupa, and from this into beauty... Our Billy wants to change, too."
"Billy" is not a real transvestite. In scenes from "Billy’s" basement, we get to se him sew in human skin and later, dance in a human scalp, with his genitals hidden between his legs and with a cloth draped over him. With his arms stretched out, the cloth looks like the wings of a butterfly. Dr. Lecter comments "Billy’s" state of mind: "Billy is not a real transsexual, but he thinks he is. He tries to be. He's tried to be a lot of things, I expect." and "Billy hates his own identity, you see, and he thinks that makes him a transsexual, but his pathology is a thousand times more savage and more terrifying." and "Our Billy wasn't born a criminal, he was made one through years of systematic abuse…". The last sentence is also mentioned in the essay "Jame Gumb´s life" (www.geocities.com/Hollywood/Set /5985) where it is made clear that it’s both important and true.
Jame Gumb had a terrible childhood. He hates himself and his past; his deepest wish is to change. But he connects the change with his sex and not his person, he thinks he is a transsexual. He has tried to get an operation in order to become a woman, but he is denied it because of his past.
He started to kill before this, but now he removes the skin form his victims so that he can make a woman’s dress out of real women. "Billy" wants to be like the beautiful moths; he wants to crawl into a cocoon, the woman’s dress, where he can change and develop and return as a different person.
Touching fingers.The moment where Clarice’s and Dr. Lecter’s fingers touch is obviously inspired by the famous painting "Creation of Adam" by Michelangelo, where Adam just has been created by God and there arms are outstretched to each other and there fingers are mealy touching.
The scene is telling us that Dr. Lecter is God and Clarice his creation. The painting is showing the moment God gives Adam a spirit, a soul and an intellect, he was only physically alive before this. Clarice was mentally incomplete, due to her traumatic childhood, before she met Dr. Lecter. He has helped Clarice to start her development, so that she can change. He is the creator of her new and more complete person, which is what this scene shows.
The end and the solution.
The final meeting between Clarice and "Buffalo Bill" is vital. Clarice finally finds her way to "Billy’s" house, but she does not know it until she sees a moth on some spools of thread. Then she realizes that it is "Billy" she has in front of her and he knows that she knows. "Billy" gets his gun and runs down to the basement. As we already know, the basement in a house means a place where strong feelings dwell. This means that Clarice once again must confront her deepest feelings and fears.
Then we get to follow Clarice’s hunt for "Billy". The basement is filled with moths, you could say that this is a place where development will take place.
After a while, "Billy" turns out the light and Clarice is blinded, but "Billy" has infrared-glasses and now it’s "Billy" hunting Clarice. He looks a lot like one of the insects he loves so highly and we follow Clarice stumbling in the dark through his eyes.
Clarice seems to have lost, but the moment "Billy" is about to shoot her, she turns around and shoots "Billy". A window brakes and daylight fills the basement. In the light we see "Billy" lying on the floor like a twitching and ugly insect, dying. In the ceiling above Clarice we see a windlass with two beautiful butterflies on it.
When the police arrives they free the surviving girl, Catherine, and she is carrying "Billy’s" small white poodle in her arms.
Finally Clarice gets her FBI degree, and Crawford congratulates her with the words "Your father would have been proud."
Clarice has managed to save Catherine, who might symbolise the lost lamb, this is made even more clear when she is carrying the poodle, that looks just like a lamb. The butterfly on the windlass point out that Clarice now has managed to confront her past and is able to develop and change. She reaches her goal and becomes an FBI-agent and Crawford gets to symbolise her father, because he too helped her to develop by putting her on the "Buffalo Bill"-case.
"Billy", on the other hand, does not manage to confront his past and change. He dies like the sick "insect" he is. In the article "The Silence of the Lambs" (www.truby.com) the writer says that Clarice achieves success without having insight about herself. He also points out that Lecter is the real hunter and that Clarice can only finish her self-exploration by confronting him. Clarice must se Lecter in herself.
I do not agree with this at all. I do not think that the writer has analysed the scene at all, I think that he has read the script and tried to analyse the conversations and behaviour of the persons. But that is not the right way to analyse a movie, you have to pay attention to the language of the pictures. A movie is based mainly on pictures, (and the feelings and signs they give you). If you want to analyse only the words, you should analyse a book instead.
The subplot is about the wish to change, develop and grow. It is also about accepting your past, as is written in the review "Foster and Hopkins are remarkable in stunning Silence of the lambs." (www.aros.net); "The main point of The Silence of the lambs (…) is dealing with a past we do not want to deal with."
Clarice, who is the main character, should grow, as all main characters shall, that is what makes her a main character (Filmboken, p48). But she is not the only one in "The Silence of the lambs" with the wish to change. The whole movie is about change.
But I think that Clarice’s fight to make up with her past and start to grow is more important than the change of "Buffalo Bill". The writer of the essay: "Silence of the lambs is the tragedy of Jame Gumb" (www.geocities.com/Hollywood/Set/5985) believe the opposite: "…It is a story of metaphors and metamorphosis in which Clarice Starling and Hannibal Lecter are presented as a contrast to Gumb…." The writer thinks that Clarice and her struggle to change are mentioned in the film merely to point out - and be a contrast to "Billy’s" change.
I would suggest the opposite: that Clarice’s struggle is the most important and that "Billy" and his failure to change, makes Clarice’s success bigger. Notice that I do not think that "Billy’s2 part in the film is unimportant, I merely say that the film is focused on Clarice’s success instead of "Billy’s" failure.
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