Great Moments in Cinema, XV

Starling: You were telling me the truth back in Baltimore, sir. Please continue now.

Lecter: I’ve read the case files. Have you? Everything you need to find him is there in those pages.

Starling: Then tell me how.

Lecter: First principles, Clarice. Simplicity. Read Marcus Aurelius: Of each particular thing, ask what is it in itself? What is its nature? What does he do, this man you seek?

Starling: He kills women.

Lecter: No! That is incidental. What is the first thing he does? What needs does he serve by killing?

Starling: Anger. Social acceptance. Sexual frustrations.

Lecter: No! He covets. That is his nature. And how do we begin to covet, Clarice? Do we seek out things to covet? Make an effort to answer now.

Starling: No. We just…

Lecter: No, we begin by coveting what we see every day. Don’t you feel eyes moving over your body, Clarice? And don’t your eyes seek out the things you want?

Starling: All right, yes. Now please tell me how…

Lecter: No. It is your turn to tell me, Clarice. You don’t have any more vacations to sell. Why did you leave that ranch?

Starling: Doctor, we don’t have any more time for any of this now.

Lecter: But we don’t reckon time the same way, do we, Clarice? This is all the time you’ll ever have.

Starling: Later. Now please listen to me. We’ve only got five…

Lecter: No. I will listen now. After your father’s murder, you were orphaned. You went to live with cousins on a sheep and horse ranch in Montana. And?

Starling: And one morning I just ran away.

Lecter: Not “just”, Clarice. What set you off? You started at what time?

Starling: Early. Still dark.

Lecter: Then something woke you, didn’t it? Was it a dream? What was it?

Starling: I heard a strange noise. What was it? It was screaming. Some kind of screaming. Like a child’s voice.

Lecter: What did you do?

Starling: I went downstairs. Outside. I crept up into the barn. I was so scared to look inside, but I had to.

Lecter: And what did you see, Clarice? What did you see?

Starling: Lambs. They were screaming.

Lecter: They were slaughtering the spring lambs?

Starling: And they were screaming.

Lecter: And you ran away?

Starling: No. First I tried to free them. I opened the gate to their pen, but they wouldn’t run. They just stood there, confused. They wouldn’t run.

Lecter: But you could – and you did, didn’t you?

Starling: Yes. I took one lamb and I ran away as fast as I could.

Lecter: Where were you going, Clarice? –

Starling: I don’t know. I didn’t have any food, any water and it was very cold, very cold. I thought… I thought if I could save just one, but… He was so heavy, so heavy… I didn’t get more than a few miles when the sheriff’s car picked me up. The rancher was so angry, he sent me to live at the orphanage in Bozeman. I never saw the ranch again.

Lecter: What became of your lamb, Clarice?

Starling: He killed him.

Lecter: You still wake up sometimes, don’t you? Wake up in the dark and hear the screaming of the lambs?

Starling: Yes.

Lecter: And you think, if you save poor Catherine, you could make them stop, don’t you? You think if Catherine lives, you won’t wake up in the dark ever again to that awful screaming of the lambs.

Starling: I don’t know. I don’t know.

Lecter: Thank you, Clarice. Thank you.

 — Silence of the Lambs


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