The Silence of the Lambs is one of the most famous psychological horror films. Directed by Jonathan Demme, Jame Gumb a.k.a, Buffalo Bill, a serial killer, is the antagonist of this Oscar-winning picture. Here, we take a closer look into this tyrant’s twisted mind and analyze his psyche.
Brief plot and introduction to Silence of the Lambs
The Silence of the Lambs is an American psychological thriller film that came out in 1991. It follows FBI trainee Clarice Starling who’s given the task of pursuing Buffalo Bill. Bill is a serial killer who murders and skins his female victims to make suits. Starling and her team consult the help of former psychiatrist Dr. Hannibal Lecter, jailed for his crimes of murder and cannibalism. Furthermore, Lecter’s insights help Starling and her team track down Bill.
Overall theme and setting
As is the case in any psychological film, The Silence of the Lambs has an air of weirdness around it. It’s one of the rare exceptions where the movie is equally gripping as the book, if not more. The movie is an artistic masterpiece that would set the standard for generic serial killer films. The premise of the movie is the search for one serial killer through another.
It’s a common thought that all psychopaths think in the same way. The film effectively shows this isn’t true and that serial killers are more different than the same. In addition, the two killers shown are poles apart in terms of personality. There is a nature of manipulation in all main characters. There are also elements of deception that provide a new level of depth to the movie as well.
Killer’s psychology in Silence of the Lambs
Jame Gumb is the primary villain in the film as well as the book. His mother’s alcoholism led him to spend his childhood in a foster home till 10 years of age. Gumb’s grandparents then took him in before becoming his first victim when he was only 12. He was admitted to Tulare Rehabilitation, where he learned to stitch and tailor.
Jame Gumb’s first move in his plan of attack is to fake an accident or injury. He then uses this to lure in overweight women who are unaware of his intentions. He proceeds to overpower or knock the woman out as a surprise. Gumb then takes the victim home and starves her to near-death. He skins different parts of the body from each victim. Finally, he dumps the bodies of the women in rivers.
Gumb is an extremely demented and mentally disturbed human being. He has enormous amounts of self-hate and anger. It is his insanity that controls his entire behavior. Three distinct psychological disorders are the main cause of his sociopathic conduct. They are –
- Gender Dysphoria – Also called gender identity disorder, this is the main illness around which the story develops. It is characterized by feelings of discomfort with one’s assigned gender. Individuals constantly try to identify as the opposite gender behaviorally as well as psychologically. Gumb attempts to feel like a woman in several ways – dancing, makeup, etc. In addition, he wanted to skin his victims so he could wear them like a suit. He felt that this would allow him to become a woman.
- ASPD – It stands for anti-social personality disorder. Affected individuals tend to be unsocialized and engage in behavior that causes conflicts in their immediate environment. Common symptoms include callousness, cynicism, manipulation, excessive lying, lack of empathy, and respect for laws. This is apparent in Gumb’s imprisonment of women in a dry well. He shows no guilt and even takes pleasure in their extreme fear. ASPD is usually an after-effect of a traumatic event in one’s youth.
- PTSD – It is a short form of post-traumatic stress disorder. PTSD impairs the cognitive and psychological functioning that are a part of everyday life. Its causes are abuse, accident, or any traumatic event in the past. There aren’t too many clues in Bill’s childhood that point toward a cause. However, his feelings of self-hate and anger towards women are clear symptoms. In fact, his behavior could be a result of the combination of both ASPD and PTSD.
Silence of the Lambs: A psychological spectacle
Jame Gumb is a terribly hysterical man. His cruelty and gruesome behavior know no bounds at all. This goes to show how well-crafted his character is. The writers have put in ample effort in making sure the audience is terrified beyond belief. It must come as no surprise that the film won the Oscar for all five major categories. Furthermore, a hat tip to the mind-boggling work of Ted Tally and Thomas Harris for their brilliant work in bringing this character to life on the silver screen!