Starring: Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver, Liam Neeson
Two catholic missionaries, Father Rodrigues (Garfield) and Father Garrpe (Driver) embark on a mission to travel to Japan to find their mentor, father Ferreira (Neeson). However, with Catholicism outlawed in Japan, their mission proves to not only be one of extreme danger, but an ultimate test of their own faith.
This is not the first time that religion has been the central theme of a film by the legendary Martin Scorsese, and he once again brings his incredible creative talent behind the camera to make Silence an epic and deeply engrossing (if slightly over bloated) film.
The fact is that Martin Scorsese doesn’t tend to make 90 minute films, and his last film The Wolf of Wall Street was three hours (apparently, it was originally four hours!) but was such made with such energetic verve and was such a great fun that it felt like less. However, Silence is a far more intentionally measured, methodical and slow film, and so does at times just take its time a little too much to be as truly engaging as it could have been, as it does sometimes feel a little too self-indulgent or like it is over-emphasising a narrative point that it is trying to make. There is indeed a lot of silence, so at least people cannot accuse the title as being misleading.
Despite its tendency to occasionally test the patience of the viewer, thanks mainly to Scorsese’s stunning visuals and the great performances Silence is still an engaging and at times quite haunting film, it is however ultimately a film of great individual moments, but sadly not a great film.
Firstly, I don’t recall a film having as much mist since the film called The Mist, but the excessive use of mist and Rodrigo Prieto’s very mournfully grey cinematography does not only make the film visually stunning (and deserving of being seen on the big screen), but also enhances the main themes at its narrative core. The main theme is of course faith, as well as both the abject misery this can bring on people’s lives, as well as the deep societal division it can cause, but of course the comfort it can bring to people in their most desperate moment of need. Now, Silence of course does not even attempt to answer these questions as these are questions that are impossible for a film to provider a clear definitive answer, but it does present some pertinent questions, particularly in the context of the narrative journey of the protagonist.
Silence has some memorable and deeply haunting individual moments, and Scorsese’s intentionally static camera depicts them in a suitably harrowing way, but though they are often quite harrowing, nothing is ever over emphasised to the point of being patronising. In fact, one of the key successful elements of the film is that it often keeps many elements of its plot morally ambiguous, with no clear good or bad guy. Both the Christian and Buddhist characters are doing what they believe in, and the audience is treated with enough respect to be left to make their own conclusions.
However, the main focus of the narrative is the character arc of Father Rodrigues, and though at times the film does sometimes lose focus and therefore potentially the attention of the viewer, his journey is an engaging one. As Rodrigues Andrew Garfield is exceptional, truly capturing in his mere facial expressions the crisis of faith that his character experiences, and his performance certainly serves to enhance our emotional engagement with both the overall narrative and his character’s own personal journey.
Though Silence does undoubtedly test the patience of the viewer at times, thanks to Garfield’s exceptional central performance, the stunning visuals and the themes contained within the script, it is undoubtedly a gripping and quite haunting film, but sadly not one that would merit repeat viewings. This is particularly obvious in the fact that Scorsese and his co-writer Jay Cocks often resort to random voice-overs to tell the story, as it seems that they also feel the need to hurry things up, but have to resort to the laziest of methods to do so.
A film that is engaging and haunting, but also at times alienating and infuriating; Silence is a stunningly cinematic experience and a film of many ideas and themes, but it does sometimes lack a clear, decisive focus.