In Jonathon Demme’s The Silence Of The Lambs (1991), the serial-killer-crime-drama plot primarily serves as a setting for examining the human condition of a psychopath. Its function is to entertain the viewers with a story, while giving the characters motivation for their actions and subject for their conversations. The psychological insight of the film is markedly more valuable than the bare-bones plot.
In the film, FBI agent Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) seeks audience with a serial-killer psychopath, Dr. Hannibal Lector (Anthony Hopkins), in order to gain insight into the perverse mind of a killer. She believes that understanding the psychology of a madman will help her in tracking down a psychopathic serial killer, ‘Buffalo Bill’, who skins his victims and has recently abducted a woman. Though Dr. Hannibal Lector appears little in the film, the scenes with him are particularly revealing and impressive; the nervous tension between him and Clarice is especially captivating. Moreover, the dynamic between them creates the milieu for analyzing the mind of a madman; the words carefully and articulately uttered by Hannibal share profound insight into how the psyche of a ‘normal’, reasonable person becomes disturbed, perverted, and twisted.
Always one step ahead, the manipulative Lector provides Clarice with clues, but only in return for personal information about her. He calls this fair-trade agreement Quid Pro Quo because it ironically allows him to gain insight into her mind. Though his intentions seem rather perverse and sinister, his insight into her mind allows him to help stretch her mind, enlighten her, and push her beyond her boundaries.