SILENCE [2016]

Directed by Martin Scorsese

Written by Jay Cocks (screenplay), Martin Scorsese (screenplay), Shûsaku Endô (based on the novel by)

Starring: Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver, Liam Neeson, Tadanobu Asano, Yôsuke Kubozuka


After the rampant Wolf on Wall Street, Silence seems at complete odds with its predecessor. But the two films share a similar theme; there is no denying that both involve a selfish idea of wishing to spread one’s culture. First it was money, the capitalist dream. This time, it is religion, with a lead character as steeped in his faith as Jordan Belfort was obsessed with money.

Most know Silence is a film that Scorsese has been wanting to make since the 80’s, based on the book of the same name written by Shûsaku Endô. Acquiring the rights around the end of the 80’s, the powerful story has been lingering in the master’s mind since. Having finally brought his dream to life, Silence serves as a visceral and powerful reflection on the clashes of culture, religion and moral beliefs, and the consequences thereafter. It also demonstrates that perhaps all religions aren’t as different as we think.

Fathers Rodriguez (Adam Garfield) and Garupe (Adam Driver) travel to Japan to confirm a rumour that is deemed vicious by the Catholic Church: their teacher, a prominent member of the Church, has apostatised. Their mission is steeped in faith and faith alone, as it is hard to see a positive outcome. It isn’t hard to see this suicidal quest as similar to the religious zeal that terrorists harbour. Of course the intentions couldn’t be more different, but it is an unwavering faith that drives them.

Apostatising is a shameful thing for the truly dedicated, but what does it really mean if your core beliefs, your inner values remain intact? This predicament is a powerful demonstration of the harsh doctrine of Catholicism in this era, in which simply publicly denouncing one’s beliefs while privately holding onto them closely is considered shameful and unthinkable for a man of their teachers’ status.

As soon as the two priests reach Japan, thanks to a guide who allegiance is never clear, the two wrestle with their faith, seeing the secretive conditions that Japanese Christians are forced to live in. Soon word of another village harbouring Christians reaches them, and the two priests split up in an attempt to help as many people as they can. For these local Christians, a simple, crudely made cross is enough for them to feel content. But do the pair clearly see why these people are forced to live this way? Or are they simply fulfilling what they feel is right; ultimately a selfish act?

The film focuses on Rodriguez for the most part after the two split up. At times, he sees the image of Christ as his reflection. Is he dedicated only to his religion? Or are his true intentions more selfish? Is martyrdom what he wants? Furthermore, is he conscious of any of these thoughts, or do they lurk in his subconscious, plaguing his dreams?

There is a key scene just before Rodriguez is found by the Japanese authorities. Rodriguez drinks from a spring, and when he stares at the water, he first sees Jesus, but this image slowly distorts into a ravaged, crazy looking reflection of Rodriguez, who begins to laugh maniacally. He is at war with himself, and as he learns more about the situation in Japan after being captured, his character progresses through a wealth of emotional changes, from devout faith and devotion, to doubt and despair. The silence for him is deafening, as his prayers are never met with an answer.

His journey is filled with a strange passive-aggressive style of persecution. It is a Buddhist culture – they claim that they don’t want to kill anyone. But their faith is just as strong; they firmly believe that western culture can not thrive in the ‘swamps’ of Japan. To force a religious belief on an unwilling country is wrong, made worse by the fact that the few Japanese Christians in hiding are ignorant of true Catholicism.

At one point a Japanese official laughs at Rodriguez, explaining that the locals have no idea about the Catholic idea of the Lord. They do not know anything about Catholicism at all, their faith proving to be a warped combination of Buddhism and Christianity. These are the people that Rodriguez wants to save, but his mere presence puts local villagers at risk. The authorities have no qualms about torturing Rodriguez in this sense, persecuting the villagers who refuse to apostatise, and their refusal to do this is again mostly due to Rodriguez’s presence alone.

Technically, the cinematography is flawless. Whether it is the amazing natural landscapes, or the purposeful movement of a camera from the perspective of a trapped prisoner, nothing feels forced. The film looks impeccable without trying. In terms of brutality, the film is restrained, causing the very few confronting scenes to have a heightened impact. There is also a very muted soundtrack, often eastern influenced to appropriately accompany the Buddhist religion of Japan in this era.

Every word is meaningful; despite the length of the film, no line is wasted. The use of smoke is also powerful, as at times it acts as a visual metaphor for the anxious nature of the villagers; hindering the visibility of approaching potential enemies. The acting is so powerful that we hang on every word or action. Garfield is simply incredible, fighting to maintain his faith while his Lord remains silent.


Scorsese has finally brought this novel to life, and it perhaps is his finest work to date. His direction is flawless, and the performances of the many Japanese actors must be noted. Scorsese loves Japanese film, and this is evident in his casting of the indigenous population, and his incredible knowledge of Japanese history. Nothing feels out of place; even the wavering Portuguese accents of Driver and Garfield have little negative effect as the acting from all involved is powerful. The final act will surprise, and can be looked at from multiple perspectives. The film ends with a memorable and poignant shot, just to add another layer onto this epic experience. Some questions are answered, but perhaps just as many questions are posed. A perfect ending to a perfect film.

A full sixer, and perhaps Scorsese’s best yet.

6/6

23 Comments on “SILENCE [2016]

      • That’s cool when that happens, I remember I was disappointed by Birdman but it kept sticking with me which says something.

        Like

      • Heh, it was the opposite or me with Birdman. Saw it three times and it started to irritate me more and more! I dunno, it’d be interesting to watch it again after a decent chunk of time has gone by, to see what I think of it.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. A beautifully written review, Jordan. One of your best! Yes, I agree with all you say. The film had me thinking for days. I still wonder about the ending and the meaning of the title. They desired to live so they remained silent. Inside, their faith continued. Does that make them cowards? To deny their faith outwardly? I loved the religious imagery, too. The cock crows three times as Rodriquez denies his faith (Christ). I did think it was too long. He and Thelma could have cut a half an hour and still hold true to the story. Absolutely the cinematography was flawless.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I didn’t have any trouble with the pace, for me it was the sort of meditative movie where lulls in pace are appreciated so I can wrap my head around everything I am seeing.

      Interesting interpretation of the title. I assumed it related to the silence met by their prayers, but what you said is even better.

      And yes, it poses so many questions regarding their faith, and so many other things. I still can’t stop thinking about it. If I hadn’t hit post I’d had probably added another thousand bloody words to it!

      Thanks a ton for the kind words Cindy 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m glad you mention their slipping accents because I noticed that too, and yet similarly felt that this took nothing away from the experience. I gave this movie a perfect 5 because it carries this weight that you rarely feel in films anymore. All these studios throwing millions upon millions of dollars at big spectacle/CG orgies hope they can exact feelings of epicness and yet while visually they achieve this, the money they spend can’t buy emotional investment. Silence earns every thing the audience feels and the audience responds in kind. Wonderful movie.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great post 🙂 Sounds like you really love the film. Anyway, If you are interested to see how rank my favorite Martin Scorsese films? I have blog post on my site cinematic coffee that might interest you. Anyway, keep up the great work as always 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ah! Yes there are many directors I’ve been meaning to see if you have lists of, I’ve just been super busy recently. Only now have I had a bit of time to answer comments – five bloody days after you left it! I need to manage my time better, and not waste it.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I am glad you liked it as much as I did! This is a really great film, and the Academy must have been really blind not to see all its merits.

    Like

      • Scorsese is a master craftsman. You can’t underestimate the talent of this guy. By the way did you see that I have another blog?

        Liked by 1 person

      • No mate I haven’t, sorry I’ve been super bad with other folks’ blogs recently, all of a sudden I’m busy! Which I’m not used to after sitting on my arse smoking pot for year after year. I need to organise my time more.

        Have you opted to create a new non-movie related blog or something? I’d go check it out right now but I’ve got about ten minutes to sort through comments on here =/

        Liked by 1 person

      • Oh there no rush dude, we all get busy I get that. Lately, with my house move I’ve been very busy. Finally settling down now.

        Like

      • Hope you’re enjoying your new house mate! I’m one of those hate change people, I live in a horrible area but I won’t move. I’m too settled in!

        Liked by 1 person

      • It’s going pretty well so far. Obviously adjustment is taking place but it’s going smoothly.

        Like

  5. A strong endorsement! Seems this was a passion project for Scorsese. I ought to watch Silence before I work out my forever-delayed top 10 of the year.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Your review is a strong endorsement to check it out. Seems this was a passion project for Scorsese. I ought to watch Silence before I work out my forever-delayed top 10 of the year

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for stopping by Chris. Sorry I haven’t visited your blog, I keep meaning to catch up with your top 100 songs among other things but life has suddenly swallowed me up. I’m amazed I have posted anything at all, I have barely any time where I can just relax.

      ANYHOW… yeah, this is a definite, definite must-see. It is epic in every sense of the word, and I’m not just tossing that word around. It truly is a grand, sprawling masterpiece. See it on a big screen if you can, it deserves it

      Like

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