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.
Thanks so much for your time in reading! Please subscribe to my site for more updates on reviews.
If there is a specific movie you’d like to see graded, or if you are interested in guest blogging for my site, 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>.