Deft analysis by Tony Zhou of a key scene from The Silence of the Lambs.
The positioning of the camera is interesting, but that’s something over which screenwriters have little control. Sure, we can write “Clarice sits down” which can create an image in the mind of the reader that Lecter is standing above Starling. But our job isn’t to direct the camera so much as it is to direct the psychological interplay between characters. Obviously we can do that through dialogue, which character assumes a power position through attitude, information, revelations, etc. But we can also convey it through scene description.
Here are some actual description lines of this scene from Ted Tally’s shooting script:
Clarice stops, at a polite distance from his bars, clears
She complies each time, trying to hide her fear.
A tense beat, then a smile from him, at this small boldness.
He rises, glances at it, turning a page or two disdainfully.
Suddenly he whips the tray back at her, with a metallic CLANG
that makes her start. His voice remains a pleasant purr.
His every word has struck her like a tiny, precise dart. But
she squares her jaw and won't give ground.
He steps backwards, then returns to his cot, becoming as still
and remote as a statue.
Notice the combination of action and emotion in these excerpts. The scene is most definitely a battle to see who will win it and the description helps to convey that.
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