Director: Martin Scorsese
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver
Martin Scorsese has always been a director praised for his versatility and this in no more evident than in his third ‘passion project’ Silence. It is hard to conceive that such a subtle and thought-provoking film would come from the same director behind the outrageous and debauched Wolf of Wall Street, Scorsese’s last directorial work. However, this stands as a testament to the brilliance and genius of the director, who even after forty years in the business still remains unexpected and innovative. Silence, based on the historical novel by Shusaku Endo, follows the perilous mission of two Portuguese Priests Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) and Garupe (Adam Driver) through Japan, where Christianity is outlawed. Faced with the horrors of persecution in a land where God is silent, both the priests and their faith are brutally put to the test.
A great deal of respect and attention is given to the historical material on which the film is based. The story itself is carefully drawn out, and is not subject to the heavy editing we might expect from a Hollywood film. The audience is given the whole picture and presented with an authentic and faithful depiction of a historical account. This approach must be commended, but whether it works on screen is debatable. There is an issue with the length and amount of detail given to the film. Whereas a longer running time can enhance a film in giving it time to develop its narrative, in Silence the length is in fact diluting some of its impact. There is so much detail and time given to the account that we begin to lose the thread. Scenes that were originally shocking and impactful become repetitive and normalised.
However, this is not to say that the film does not leave any impact at all on the audience. It is beautifully subtle and provocative. The subject matter itself tackles questions such as does God exist? What is the value of faith? And what would we sacrifice for our beliefs? Considering the mix of opinions on faith that exist in many modern societies, to place such questions at the heart of film is an undeniably daring and brave decision. However, Silence explores these issues of faith in a balanced and perceptive manner which never becomes too distant to modern day attitudes. Whether you believe in God or not, the film is still stimulating in its exploration of human belief and sacrifice.
Moreover, Silence is stunningly shot and visually outstanding. The use of prolonged tracking shots combined with the breathtaking scenery, results in scenes which are like paintings on the screen. In addition, we see Andrew Garfield give the performance of his career, where he is both tentative and sincere in his depiction of the troubled Rodrigues. Still, I believe that the majority of praise must be given to the Japanese cast of the film, such as Yōsuke Kubozuka and Yoshi Oida, who really hold the film together and produce some off the best performances.
Although sometimes self-indulgent and draining, Silence is overall a beautiful and deeply thoughtful exploration of faith, religion and human perseverance.