Silence of the Lambs

30/3/12 – DVD Cover (Death’s Head Hawkmouth)

In the silence of the Lambs, the female protagonist, Clarice encounters theDeath’s Head Hawkmouth through her attempt to uncover a homicide investigation with the help of psychiatrist Hannibal Lector. According to Thomas Rymer Jones, the Death’s Head Hawkmouth are moths, which feature the shape of the skull on the body.

Jones also argues that the Hawkmouth is associated with ‘horror’. It could be argued that the moths in the Silence of the Lambs is connected to the murderer who is gently stroking the hawkmouth in his hand, which may symbolize death and violence. The Hawkmouth did become an area of interest and I began to analyse the DVD cover for the film.

Linda Mizejewski emphasises the moth which is positioned right over Clarice’s mouth and the skull becomes evident to the viewer. Mizejewski also highlights that the skull originates from Salvador Dali’s photograph, In Volupate M0rs, 1951. The form features three women who use their bodies to create an image of a skull.

Salvador Dali, In Volupate Mors, 1951

It could be argued that the women that were used to construct the skull feature an association with the victims in the film who are exposed and skinned by the murderer in order to create a series of garments. Mizejewski quotes that the image symbolises “men’s fear and anxieties surrounding female sexuality” p.182

Perhaps this particular statement corresponds with Buffalo Bill’s urge to murder young women and the character begins to dress as a woman, which may eliminate his anxieties surrounding femininity. Throughout the film, the other male characters stare at Clarice, especially at the funeral where a group of Sheriffs gaze intensely at Clarice, which may stimulate discomfort from the spectator.

Perhaps the male characters perceive Clarice as a threat as she begins to challenge system that has been very male orientated. Perhaps Clarice features a connection with death as she attempts to find the murderer responsible for the disappearance of a young girl.The skull on the  moth, which is juxtaposed next to Clarice’s mouth may also symbolise her connection to Hannibal Lector who also imposes death and violence.

Jones, Thomas.R. The Animal Creation.  London: Society for Promoting Chrisitan Knowledge 1865 p.161

Mizejewski, Linda. Hardboiled & High Heeled: The Woman Detective in Popular Culture.  London: Routledge, 2004 p.182

Demme, Jonathan. “The Silence of the Lambs.” 118 Minutes. USA: 20th Century Fox, 2009


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