Kim, I agree with you: This is the top of the tops for a psychological thriller and it definitely stands the test of time. You may be interested to read these comments about the story from its screenwriter Ted Tally:
First of all, I just thought it was so smart, so literary and knowing, and not just in a technological, police-procedural, serial-killing way — which Tom [Harris] is extremely knowledgeable about. It’s so knowing about people and human nature and character, and the dialogue is so good. It was “the thriller” raised to literature. And the story is just so unpredictable; to have the twinned killers, two bad guys instead of one, and the whole intricacy of the criminal plot. But, above all, it was the relationship between this young woman and this mad psychiatrist which was not like anything I’d ever seen. Jonathan and I were talking about it and he said, “This is new, dramatically; there has never been a relationship of two main characters like this.”
And then, for reasons I’m not even sure of, I felt very moved, and still do, by Clarice Starling. By her courage and vulnerability — and I probably respond more to courage in a main character than any other quality. She’s in a male world, and she’s a student, and she’s orphaned… I was just deeply moved by her. And Thomas Harris had so artfully worked in mythic underpinnings — it just had this feeling that there’s the orphaned young woman making her way in the world, and there’s the good stepfather in Crawford and the evil stepfather who’s Lecter who are taking on her education. That’s a huge part of the story, in fact it’s the emotional heart of the whole story; her search for a missing father and her attempt to replaced that void which is never going to go away. The whole thing of saving the lamb and being able to save Catherine Martin is all tied up with her inability to save her own father when she was a child.
I was so pleased to read this interview with Tally because my take on Clarice and what’s driving her aligns perfectly with Tally’s take, that last line especially: “The whole thing of saving the lamb and being able to save Catherine Martin is all tied up with her inability to save her own father when she was a child.”
We feel so deeply for Clarice — the orphan, the need for a father figure, the multiple layers of her fears, and yet the courage she displays on so many levels, perhaps most poignantly when she ‘confesses’ to Lecter the thing she fear the most: reliving the slaughter of the spring lambs on her uncle’s Montana ranch.
The movie is a perfect blend of the Physical Journey and the Psychological Journey, so that what transpires is infused with deep emotional and personal meaning.
Thanks for your thoughts, Kim. I hope you have a chance to continue the conversation this week as we dig more deeply into this fantastic movie.