Martin Scorsese is a director who has proven throughout his career he can tackle any subject matter, whether it be a biopic about a boxer or a a story about a haunted ambulance driver. With SILENCE he takes on a highly religious film based on the book of the same name. The book itself was based upon events that actually happened back in the 17th century, with Christianity being brought to Japan. It is not difficult to see why Scorsese has been wanting to adapt this book for 20 odd years, the history of these events is interesting and certainly eye opening.
The story here is about two young Jesuit Priests, Father Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) and Father Garrpe (Adam Driver) who receive word about their mentor Father Ferreira (Liam Neeson). Ferreira has been in Japan spreading Christianity, the news they receive is that he has apostatised (renounced his faith) and is living as a native. Unable to believe this, the young Priests organise travel to Japan to find their mentor and prove the news wrong. Upon their travels they encounter Japanese people practising Christianity in secret to avoid persecution from the Inquisitor.
The film opens with a harrowing scene highlighting briefly the horrors that Father Ferreira has gone through while in Japan. What is shown is easily enough to believe he abandoned his faith, but his fate to the audience as it does with Rodrigues and Garrpe remains unknown. From here the film is seen through the eyes of Rodrigues, as he hears the news about his mentor and then his travels to Japan. This is his story and journey, one that will ultimately test his faith in God and his beliefs.
Most of the film takes place in Japan, and it examines the dangers and consequences that came with the West bringing their religious beliefs to the East. It also explores the power of faith, and how much does it take to abandon that faith or have it truly tested. As this is the story of Rodrigues, it is his faith in his God that we really see put to the test in the most extreme of ways. He sees the persecution of those who follow Christianity, the people he has bonded with and mentored with.
Without a doubt SILENCE makes it audience question whether anything is worth holding on to through this persecution, can you truly keep your beliefs after witnessing such horror? It wont answer these questions, it is something for each individual to decide. Rodrigues is an intriguing character, and he works as the guide for the audience through his journey. His story is harrowing to watch and go through, he truly believes in his God and his faith and seeing what is happening to these people who also believe is not an easy watch for him or us. What hurts the most is the one thing he needs to do to stop this is the one thing he can’t do.
Performances in this film are fantastic and truly moving on every level, each performer put in so much and it shows. Andrew Garfield is front and center here as Rodrigues, it is his story and this may very well be the most powerful performance of his career so far. While the award season recognises his work in HACKSAW RIDGE and deservedly so, it is this film that shows us just how much he can do and how much he can go through for a role. Interesting that his two big roles for 2016 were quite religious driven, and he managed to not only disappear into these roles but he was incredibly convincing. Adam Driver has had an impressive few years as an actor and was extremely good here, one scene in particular was heartbreaking and he sold it well. He manages to put everything into each role he has, and he was very captivating here. Liam Neeson took on a different role than what we have seen from him recently and while his role wasn’t large he made it memorable.
The role of the guide for the Priests played by Yosuke Kubozuka as Kichijiro who is not only memorable but this role was quite tasking. There is so much Kichijiro goes through in the film, and Kubozuka manages to to flawlessly tackle it all. The other stand out here was Tadanobu Asano as the Interpreter, a charismatic character who is also quite intimidating. His scenes with Andrew Garfield are extremely captivating and there is a great back and forth between them. The Inquisitor Inoue played by Issei Ogata was quite a harsh role and he managed to play it with a quiet charm and intensity. In a strange way he was not only very brutal but the reasoning behind his actions could be understood even though what he did was horrible. The mixture of these characters makes SILENCE such a memorable film, and the emotions they provide us with really hit hard.
It is very apparent watching SILENCE that this has been a labour of love for Martin Scorsese, it shows with every frame. This is very different to his previous films, and it wants you to feel its running time, it wants you to feel every second of it. The script was very hard hitting and Scorsese did a great job with Jay Cocks in crafting this piece, based on the novel by Shûsaku Endô. As always Thelma Schoonmaker does a top job as editor, as she does with each film she works on. The cinematography by Rodigo Prieto is breathtaking, every aspect of this film is shown with amazing detail. The landscape is beautiful and it has a sadness to it, which reflects the trials these people are going through. Everything was put together in such a fantastic way, there really isn’t anything to fault with SILENCE.
This will not be a film for everyone, it is not an easy to watch and with its almost 3 hour running time it does hit hard and it is emotionally draining. Without having read the book it is based on, one can only imagine it captures its heart and soul. It gives its audience a lot to think about and it will definitely stay with everyone who watches it.