STARRING: Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver, Liam Neeson, Tadanobu Asano, Ciarán Hinds, Issey Ogata, Shinya Tsukamoto, Yoshi Oida, Yōsuke Kubozuka, Nana Komatsu, Ryo Kase and Béla Baptiste
Two priests travel to Japan in an attempt to locate their mentor and propagate Catholicism.
At St. Paul’s College, Macau, Portuguese Jesuit priest Alessandro Valignano receives news that Father Ferriera has renounced his faith in Japan after being tortured. Stunned and completely disbelieving that Ferreira would commit such apostasy, his pupils, Father Sebastião Rodrigues and Father Francisco Garupe, set off to Japan with the aid of an alcoholic fisherman named Kichijiro to find him.
Silence is the latest film from Martin Scorsese, one which he had been trying to make since penning the script alongside screenwriter Jay Cocks back in the 1990’s. The film is based on Shūsaku Endō’s novel in which in are taken back to the 17th century and follow two Jesuit priest who travel from Portugal to Japan to find their mentor who has turned his back on Catholicism.
First thing I have to praise is the cinematography from Rodrigo Prieto in this film, who previously worked with Scorsese in The Wolf of Wall Street, as the landscape surrounding Sebastião and Francisco is at times gorgeous to look at. Every shot feels purposely placed, be it hovering above Jesuit priests walking down steps, to focusing in on a closeup of a character whilst another is blurred in the background. With each shot filled with purpose, Scorsese’s Silence feels like his most personal film in years, focusing on the issues of persecution, faith and doubt in which he follow primarily with Andrew Garfield’s Rodrigues. Garfield is showing how capable an actor he is in recent times with life after the Amazing Spider-Man films, carrying the film on his shoulders as we follow his characters journey who seems more fulfilled on his own ego as he spreads Catholicism through villages upon his arrival more so than being too noble or Christ-like (minus that scene of him seeing God in his reflection in the water). The supporting cast also provide memorable performances, with Tadanobu Asano as the interpreter for Issey Ogata’s Inquisitor, both men delivering very good performances. With the limited screen time he has, Liam Neeson makes a memorable impression as he brings much gravitas in the final act. Yōsuke Kubozuka is potentially the films standout however as Kichijiro, who is almost a personal foil of Roridgues’s own Judas.
Silence is a slow burn that may feel hard work for some. I particularly found myself losing interest in the middle of the film, mainly due to the fact that I just couldn’t get an emotional connection to feel for the plight of Rodrigues. Clocking in at just under two hours and forty-five minutes, it still feels longer and the films handling of the ‘torture’ scenes may be difficult for some to digest. The accents between Garfield and Driver can be dodgy at times, but they at least made an effort to do them rather than decide to avoid completely (originally Daniel Day-Lewis, Gael García Bernal and Benicio Del Toro were cast in the key roles). The final act takes a different turn from what we’ve witnessed before and I’m still trying to figure out whether I liked it or not.
Silence is a film from Scorsese that aims to get you thinking compared to his previous works in recent years, as we witnessed man’s faith being tested, repeatedly, for almost three hours. At times beautiful to look at and at times disturbing to watch, Silence is wonderfully shot and Garfield provides a solid performance in the lead role, with some memorable performances in the supporting cast. With its themes on faith and doubt, as well as showing how Christians were treated in 17th century Japan, it won’t be a film for everyone and some will suggest that the latter half of the film just feels too repetitive. 6/10