I never thought I’d see the famous Martin Scorsese spend two decades working on a retelling of 17th century priests spreading Christianity in a country that forbade it, but by George he’s done it! It still misses the intended level of perfection, but Silence reminds us of one important philosophy: We have no need to suffer while spreading the word of our beliefs, as God always speaks through silence.
Scorsese grips us into the uncomfortable experience with the torture of several Christians, only a handful of thousands others facing the same fate. They are tied to crosses far away from their village, and the Japanese authorities slowly pour water directly from the hot springs onto their bare flesh. One of these Christian missionaries, portrayed by Liam Neeson (Michael Collins, Schindler’s List), provides a voiceover that sounds like the mouth of God. Things may look hopeless from his perspective, but less than three hours later we learn of the Lord’s consistent activity in their trials, despite His apparent silence.
Two new American priests, depicted by Andrew Garfield (Hacksaw Ridge, The Social Network) and Adam Driver (Girls, Star Wars: The Force Awakens) set out on a life-or-death mission of ministry to the ruthless city of Nagasaki, Japan. Here, anyone committed to Christianity must hide in the wilderness, or else be forced by governmental rule to place their foot over a stone image of Christ against their will. Other forms of persecution includes burning at the stake and hanging on a cross over crashing waves, ensuring a slow and excruciating death. Despite the stunning, picturesque camerawork by cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto (Brokeback Mountain, The Wolf of Wall Street), the unholy conditions of this God-created land turns back onto his people. It makes you question: Where is God in moments of silence?
The cast who recreates these events put on at best average performances, depending on how much creative juices director Scorsese pours into the particular scene. Yet top priority goes to the creative storytelling, even over the depth of the acting and characterizations. The two leads could not be more miscast, while nobody in the supporting cast has enough written detail to make you care for their predicament. For instance, one of the key characters gets killed after we don’t see him for an hour, and then nobody ever mentions him again, almost as if he was never at any point necessary for the priests’ mission. I’d also like to note a rather bizarre out-of-place moment when the priest played by Garfield looks into the water and sees his reflection as the painting of an apostle. He laughs at his distorted reflection as if he’s had too much wine or something. It’s a moment which you’re not sure about how you’re supposed to feel while watching, so you just cringe in an uncomfortable silence.
The blaring errors aside, Mr. Scorsese’s latest effort stands out from his others, as here there are no profound levels of cursing and violence, and no excessive love towards old filmmaking. In fact, he and his regular editor Thelma Schoonmaker (Goodfellas, Raging Bull) step back from his widely celebrated abrupt edit patterns, and instead keeps the pace as slow as possible to honor whomever suffered so much under God’s supervision. No accompanying musical score to lend an ear to either—in fact, the sound mixing ranges from minimal to absent, depending on how much we can hear God speak through silence.
Unlike others before it, this motion picture explores an unfamiliar place and time in history in an informative approach. It makes it easy to quickly parallel this account to the present-day worldwide desire to freely believe whatever without facing either hatred or persecution. If you were to watch these horrific trials placed on the faithful, a reminder should erupt within you of the everlasting hatred plaguing our world, yet another will erupt of hope for those evangelical souls not afraid to speak.
It may not always be for religious purposes like depicted in Silence, but everybody has a duty to speak up for themselves, standing up for their beliefs. In some cases, it may be easy and refreshing to speak publicly about heated issues. But in the case of anybody on the autism spectrum, just the thought of going up in front of people to say words paralyzes them out of fear.
It happens to me all the time: I have the responsibility of approaching somebody, sometimes a perfect stranger, and have to trigger a conversation. Unless I had somebody else with me to back me up, I feel so unarmed and unprepared to speak with somebody. Why? For a number of reasons. One: Because my ability to put my thoughts into words is much, much slower than others. Two: Because my vulnerability makes me an easy target for others to prove me wrong. And third: Because any harshness others say in reaction to what I tell them can leave a lasting negative impression that I’ll never forget.
Six-Word Lessons on Growing Up Autistic, Lesson #48: Insults May Be Taken Too Personally.
Six-Word Lessons on Growing Up Autistic, Lesson #46: They Don’t Know How to React.
Everyone will have to stand up for themselves and participate in debate at some point, and follow their points up with the right facts to help them not get defeated so easily. While it should not turn into a heated, hate-filled argument that ruins relationships, everyone, whether autistic or not, must understand the limits of how they can be talked down to.
Usually, the core to the problem in most people on the spectrum is that they simply don’t like to share what they are thinking with others.
Six-Word Lessons on Growing Up Autistic, Lesson #49: Autistic Children Have Trouble Sharing Thoughts.
It’s not that they are being selfish or greedy, it’s just that their thoughts are so complex and out of reach, that it’s not natural for them to think of a way to verbalize those feelings in a way that others can easily understand. That’s how it was for me all my life: There are some things I don’t like to share with others as the idea is so complex and out of the ordinary that it’s hard to think of a way to explain it in a way that makes sense.
Now, imagine somebody with autism volunteering with a group that specializes in interacting with the homeless. In this situation, it would be like stepping into a lava bath, needing to become open and enthusiastic with people who have a reputation of being racist and bad-mouthed. I’ve done this kind of thing before, and I can certainly say that this stereotype is only true for about half of the homeless. But when you come across those who do fit that presumption about the homeless, the trauma it leaves on somebody with autism is unimaginable.
Another problem that can come up with this type of work is that someone with autism could say something that comes out incredibly disrespectful, even if the speaker never intended to come out that way. In turn, the homeless person could be intentionally disrespectful in return, spilling out racial slurs and shouting the f-word every three seconds. Then even greater trauma would land on the autistic individual, creating more harm than good in the intended volunteer work.
Six-Word Lessons on Female Asperger Syndrome, Lesson #50: Mistakes Will Happen; Apologize, Move Forward.
Does this mean that nobody with autism should ever follow through in missionary work where they are expected to make conversation with people? What about when it comes to forming conflicting opinion for a disagreeing friend or relative?
It’s certainly not an easy question to answer, as we humans are mentally required to develop relationships with one another as a means to survive. The answer is also different depending on the individual, so here are the best takeaways that I can give to help you:
- Take things one step at a time. If you are traveling as a family to do a missionary trip to another country, and you have to take your autistic child with you, give him twice as much alone time as everyone else. Also, try to only let him interact with others his own age or younger.
- Avoid letting your autistic child do this kind of thing alone. They need direct assistance when making conversation with strangers, so having someone of familiarity with them will put them more at ease, and it’s safer for everyone this way.
- Make sure you let other friends and family know about the limitations in your autistic child’s speech and debate habits. Make sure they understand that they don’t always intend to be disrespectful, but should still be given a chance to speak when necessary.
If there is a specific movie you’d like to see reviewed, please email me at Trevor@TrevorsViewOnHollywood.com for your recommendations.
Have a great weekend, and happy watching!
Guerrasio, Jason. Martin Scorsese's movie that took 2 decades to make will be released this year. Business Insider Inc., 26 Sept 2016. Web. <http://www.businessinsider.com/martin-scorsese-silence-movie-release-date-2016-9>.
Silence. Paramount. Web. <http://www.silencemovie.com/>.
Wilkinson, Alissa. Silence is beautiful, unsettling, and one of the finest religious movies ever made. Digital image. Vox. Vox Media, 14 Jan 2017. Web. <http://www.vox.com/culture/2016/12/21/14005760/silence-review-spoilers-martin-scorsese-andrew-garfield-adam-driver>.