Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Mise en Scène: Hannibal meets Clarice in Silence of the Lambs, 1991

My selection for Mise en Scène is from Jonathan Demme's 'Silence of the Lambs' 1991


Clip length: 1 minute and 12 seconds. 

Clip of the following summary. The above clip is for educational purposes only. 


Background summary to scene

The character, Clarice Starling is­ a student at the FBI and was requested by her head lecturer and mentor to go on a special assignment. Clarice is sent to find information that could lead to information on a missing girl. Clarice has been briefed that the inmate she is visiting is a deadly killer and would do anything. He does not care for human life. His name is Hannibal Lecter. 


Shot 1: 0 - 2 Sec: The character, Clarice Starling is walking down a darkly lit hallway, grey exposed damp wall is exposed. Character is medium close up (mcu), we can see the character’s face and shoulders.

Shot 2: 2 – 11 Sec: The camera focuses to Clarice’s point of view. We see that she is now looking at what is before her, the camera turns left so that we view a cell with wide frames of glass and bars in between.


Sill image of shot 2 - this is Clarice's first view of Hannibal Lecter


The camera pans around the corner in the frame the audience sees Hannibal Lecter in the frame. It is a medium long shot (mls), of him. The four pains of floor to ceiling glass are interrupted by four strong and worn out thick bars. The music is foreboding and decreasing in volume. Letting us know that something is about to happen.

Medium long shot (mls) of Hannibal Lecter saying a simple and friendly “Gd’Morning” to his guest. 



Shot 3: 12  -15 Sec:  Over the shoulder (ots) and medium long shot (mls) of Clarice as she speaks to Hannibal Lecter. Clarice is professional in her tone and rushed in her response directly starting her their exchange with professional dialogue “Dr. Lecter my name is Clarice Starling. May I speak with you?”  

Shot 4: 16 – 18 Secs: Over the shoulder and medium long shot of Hannibal Shot: Lecter as her replies to Clarice “Your one of Jack Crawford’s. Aren’t you?” The camera is quick mirroring the fast introductory dialogue. He is only taking up half the frame as you can see below in the still. 




Still image of shot 4 - Hannibal confronts Clarice 

Shot 5: 19 - 20 Secs: Medium long shot of Clarice and over the shoulder of (ots) she replies to Hannibal:  “I am yes ”.

Shot 6: 20 - 23 Secs Medium long shot and over the shoulder of Hannibal Lecter as he addresses Clarice: “May I see your credentials?”.

Shot 7: 23- 33 Secs: Medium long shot (mlu) of Clarice and over the shoulder of Hannibal Lecter looking at Clarice. Her immediate response is “certainly”.

Clarice looks down, then away then down again to root around her pocket that has some slight difficulty finding her wallet that contains her identification. She did not look in her bag as it is swinging from her opposite shoulder. The camera rests on Clarice’s and this is a long moment as she nervously takes out her identification and unfolds the wallet. It is the longest scene so far in the sequence. Clarice is dressed simply and is young and vibrant against the dank and dark exposed stone wall behind her.

As we view her in this scene we are aware of Hannibal’s presence as we can see quiet a lot of the back of his neck. The over the shoulder shots (ots) are taking up almost half the frame in each shot, reminding us of the second person in the scene.


Still image of Shot 7 -Clarice holds up her credentials to Hannibal

As Clarice holds up her unfolded wallet to Hannibal Lecter he asks Clarice to come “closer please” first in a polite manner. Clarice moves her arm holding the wallet towards Hannibal.

Shot 8: 34-36 Secs:  Full frame and medium close up (mcu) of Hannibal, his head is in the middle of the frame. The lights are cast on top of his head as if he is annoyed. He commands to Clarice: “closer” But it sounds more like “clooooser” by his exaggeration of the word.

Shot 9: 37 -41 Secs: Camera pans back to Clarice, she is standing in the same position with the wallet held in front of her and covering some of her lower face. First the camera pauses on her and then Clarice starts moving towards the camera, wallet in hand. Her steps are deliberate, stern. This shot is a medium close up we can see her upper body and face in the shot. Clarice is standing in the centre and the dreary wall is softly lit behind her. No dialogue in this shot just the sound of footsteps.  

Shot 10: 42 - 46  Secs: Close up shot of Hannibal he walks towards the camera . He enters the frame to move it from a close up to an extreme close up. 

Shot 11: 48 Secs:  Extreme close up of Clarice who is still holding her identification, it can be seen in the corner of the frame. Her gaze is serious.



Still of shot 11 - Extreme close up of Clarice keeping her nerve with Hannibal

Shot 12: 49 – 55 Secs: Extreme close up of Hannibal he blinks his eyes, looks down at the wallet, then says “That expires in one week”. He winks at her quickly and says “Your not really FBI, are you”.


Still image of shot 12 - Extreme close up of Hannibal

Shot 13: 56 – 58 Secs: Clarice responds “I’m still training at the academy”. It is a medium long shot and over the shoulder (ots). Clarice says this with more conviction yet some nervousness in her voice.

Shot 14:  59 - 1:02 Secs: Close up shot of Hannibal, and over the shoulder (ots). The back of Clarice is taking up half the frame and Hannibal is in the left hand side of the frame. “Jack Crawford sent a trainee to me”.

Shot 15:  1:03 -  1:09 Secs: Medium close up of Clarice and over the shoulder. Hannibal is taking up half the frame but Clarice appears more in the distance compared to the previous shot.

Her reply to Hannibal is: “Yes I am a student”, “I am here to learn from you”. Maybe you can decide for yourself whet­­her or not I am qualified enough to do that”. Clarice says this in an honest and sincere manner.

Shot 16: 1:10 – 1:12 Secs Medium close up of Hannibal Lecter he looks at Clarice and says “Hmmm”.



Still of Hannibal from shot 16 


The end of scene sets the tone that Hannibal has the upper hand over agent Starling, however, she was able to keep her nerve and display her motive as honestly as she could. The camera work moves from medium long shots to closer medium shots suggesting a build up in intimacy in their quick exchange. Hannibal is a mysterious figure as he is very cool in his delivery and gets straight to the point. This introduction of the character Hannibal sets the tone of the rest of movie and his personality traits later on. He is an intimidating character.   

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