Evil and Ecstasy: On 'The Silence of the Lambs'

Episode 61 · December 4th, 2019 · 1 hr 6 mins

About this Episode

The Welsh writer Arthur Machen defined good and evil as "ecstasies." Each one is a "withdrawal from the common life." On this view, any artistic investigation into the nature of good and evil can't remain safely ensconced our modern, common-life construal of thinigs. It must become fantastic and incorporate aspects of "nature" that feel "supernatural" from a modern standpoint. Jonathan Demme's screen adaptation of The Silence of the Lambs is a powerful example. The film oscillates undecidably between a straightforward crime story and a work of supernatural horror. In this episode, JF and Phil cast Hannibal Lecter and Clarice Starling as figures in a myth that pits the individual against the institution, the singular against the type, and the forces of light against the forces of darkness.


Jonathan Demme (dir.), The Silence of the Lambs
Thomas Harris, The Silence of the Lambs (original novel)
Carl Jung on the doctrine of Privatio Boni
Johann Sebastian Bach, The Goldberg Variations
William Gibson, Pattern Recognition
Rolling Stones, "Sympathy for the Devil"
Howard Shore, Canadian composer
Arthur Machen, The White People
Weird Studies, episode 3: Ecstasy, Sin, and "The White People"
Machen, The White People
Machen, Hieroglyphics: A Note Upon Ecstasy in Literature