SILENCE (Mexico | Taiwan | USA/15A/161mins)
Directed by Martin Scorsese. Starring Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver, Liam Neeson, Ciarán Hinds, Tadanobu Asano
THE PLOT: Based on Shusaku Endo’s acclaimed 1966 novel (which made it onto Japanese screens in 1971, courtesy of Masahiro Shinooda), ir’s 1643, and two young Jesuit priests, Rodriguez (Garfield) and Garrpe (Driver) are smuggled into Japan. Their mission, to find their MIA mentor, Ferreira (Neeson), the Colonel Kurtz of the piece having reportedly abandoned his faith, turned by Japan’s Edict of Expulsion, designed to ban and eradicate Christianity from its islands.
Anyone found worshipping a foreign deity could expect to face all kinds of medieval torture, but for Rodriguez and Garrpe, and their fresh peasant followers, such dangers are all part of the proving the faith.
Will our idealistic young Jesuits crack under the pressure? Or will they see the light? And is there any real difference between either option…?
THE VERDICT: I realise I’m in a very small minority here (I feel your pain, Rodriguez!), but, try as I might, I couldn’t quite bring myself to believe in ‘Silence’; this was a film that really, really tested my faith in Martin Scorsese.
By the end though, I just couldn’t muster up even a Christopher Moltisanti cheer.
Still, questioning my faith in Scorsese, I knew straight away that was a bad turn, given that the revered filmmaker is a far, far smarter man than me, and one who has, right from his days as an altar boy in St Patrick’s Cathedral in New York and through his darkest, most drug-fuelled days (I feel your pain, Robertson!), struggled to find the true meaning of our Lord in this god-forsaken world of ours.
And yet, I have to admit, the last 17 hours of this film kinda dragged for me. And I couldn’t get over the creeping sense that ‘Silence’ played like a student film that just got out of hand. Or worse, ‘Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives’ meets ‘The Mission’.
So, forgive me, Father Marty, and everyone else who threw their heart and soul into this ambitious, stubborn, earnest exploration of man’s need for his own religion, for having the biggest god as your invisible best friend. Everyone else sees the Second Coming. I see Kurosawa’s ‘Father Ted’.
RATING: 3/5
Review by Paul Byrne

  • filmbuff2011

    Having made The Last Temptation Of Christ and Kundun, Martin Scorsese completes a hat-trick of films about religion and how it’s perceived with Silence. Based on true events that occurred in Japan in the 17th Century, it’s a film that raises deep questions about faith and the limits people will go to hold on to it.

    Portuguese priest Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) is summoned to appear before Father Valignano (Ciaran Hinds). Together with Father Garrpe (Adam Driver), they are tasked by Father Valignano to travel to Japan and establish if their mentor Father Ferreira (Liam Neeson) has committed apostasy i.e. renounced his faith completely. During this time Japan is a closed society, only trading with the Dutch and reacting in a violent manner to any attempts to introduce outlawed Christianity in their Buddhist-dominated country. But Christianity has taken hold here, as Rodrigues discovers immediately upon arrival. The villagers are committed to their faith, including their errant guide Kichijiro (Yosuke Kubozuka). However, local inquisitor Inoue (Issei Ogata) is determined to stamp out Christianity at whatever cost, starting with the villagers and then by applying pressure on the priests to commit apostasy…

    Scorsese had read the book Silence by Shusaku Endo many times before finally deciding on making it into a film. The book itself was based on historical fact, lending the film an even more serious, sombre tone. This isn’t the flashy or bone-crunchingly violent filmmaking of Goodfellas or Casino. Scorsese is in a more reflective mood here, asking the audience to weigh up what’s more important to Rodrigues: a person’s life… or their faith? Do they balance each other out on the scales of life or does one weigh more than the other? Martyrdom is touched upon several times, but the instinct for self-preservation comes more to the fore. Yet Rodrigues tries to find the inner calm, the silence of his soul.

    Beautifully shot by Rodrigo Prieto on Taiwanese locations, Silence is a film full of arresting imagery. Take the scene early on of villagers being crucified by the sea, harsh waves washing mercilessly over them. It’s not likely to leave your mind anytime soon. But there’s also quieter, more intimate domestic moments between Rodrigues and Inoue that speak of veiled threats and the danger that Rodrigues might just be seduced into committing apostasy. It’s a long film at 161 minutes, but every scene is so carefully composed by Scorsese that they take on a magnetic quality, drawing you deeper into this absorbing story as it unfolds.

    Garfield, in particular, should be singled out for his credible, quietly powerful performance as a priest pushed to the very edge of his faith. As it is he who carries the whole film, not Neeson or Driver. The Japanese cast do a good job too, mostly speaking good English which isn’t that common from Japanese actors. Silence is a film about faith, persecution, violence and sacrifice. It’s a slow-burning film that requires patience, but it’s a hugely rewarding one. There’ll be plenty to talk about after seeing this film. This reviewer wouldn’t expect any less from a master filmmaker like Scorsese. ****