Directed by Martin Scorsese
Running Time 161 Minutes, Rated R.
4.5 Mitch’s out of 5
At this screening I noticed a handful of people walking out before it was well over. Most of the time that is an example of a poorly made film, but not always. Martin Scorsese’s latest, “Silence”, is an example of the latter.
Scorsese has been trying to make this epic film about faith for the last 20 years. There is a true testament of faith just in that. His faith in this project bears us the viewers great fruit; while the fruit of “Silence” may not be that delicious to the senses, it is quite sustaining. Here is a film that Scorsese has crafted with a precise nature, and while 2 hours and 40 may seem long, this is deliberate in the way that your faith will be tested time and time again and while there can peace and joy in it there is also endurance that is needed.
Adapted from Shūsaku Endō‘s novel by Scorsese and Jay Cocks (“Gangs of New York”, “Age of Innocence”), “Silence” is the true story of two Portugese Jesuit Priests, Father Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) and Father Garupe (Adam Driver) who in 1636 travel to Japan in search for their mentor Father Ferreira (Liam Neeson) who has gone missing and is rumored to have apostatized, denouncing one’s faith. Japan is enemy territory for Christians, and being caught with any semblance of its faith is punishable by death. Smuggled into Japan by a very flawed Japanese man Kichijiro (Yôsuke Kubozuka), Rodrigues and Garupe are instant outlaws but are blessed to find a village of some secret Japanese Christians whose living their beliefs in secret is showed to be very hard. The arrival of the Fathers give the villagers hope but in one of the many complexities that Scorsese delves into, we gather from Rodrigues’ prayers that he is concerned that they are putting their faith in tactile objects such as rosary beads and straw crosses instead of having it in their hearts, minds, and soul.
Eventually Rodrigues and Garupe split up, and we follow Rodrigues as he is eventually captured by the Inquisitor (Issei Ogata) who will and does take the lives of Christians but would rather give you time to think it over so you can denounce the faith and be set free. Freely admitting from his earlier mistakes, the Inquisitor says that they don’t kill off villagers first making them martyrs but instead, he focuses on getting the Priests to denounce their faith for the villagers to see. Father Rodrigues is left captured while he watches those who have taken up his faith tortured and executed. It is excruciating as Rodrigues holds fast to his belief in God even though his prayers are answered with only silence, but the practical and maybe moral decision of saving those with the act of stamping your foot on a bronzed image of Christ can’t be denied.
Andrew Garfield, who has taken up two devout Christian believers this year with “Hacksaw Ridge” and “Silence” impresses me even more in this. Starved literally and in faith, his portrayal is of a man of God that can’t hear Him and is left to hold onto his beliefs as greatly as he can. If it were up to me Kubozuka’s sinning Kichijiro should be nominated for Best Supporting Actor. Kichijiro is Scorsese’s depiction of Man, who keeps failing over and over and needs unlimited forgiveness. There is such beauty when Father Rodrigues glows in his letters about how time spent with Kichijiro and his resurgence of faith; like God’s love for his lost sheep.
Beautiful and tragic to look at, Rodrigo Prieto’s cinematography holds you tight when shots of the ocean and beaches are present, and the score is perfect in it’s use of simple nature sounds to fill the screen.
Ultimately the film boils down to God knowing what’s in your heart and where our soul stands on that ground. The ending is tense and delivers more in a meditation of faith than I could have ever of grasped.
Dear Scorsese, 20 years well spent.
P.s. As a Christian (gasp!), these are the type of films that should be mandatory for stretching and challenging one’s faith walk. Sure, recent based films like “The Young Messiah”, “Risen”, “God’s not Dead”, “Miracles From Heaven”, and “War Room” have their place and their audience but all too often those films give way to less talented storytellers. Having cinema greats such as Scorsese is immeasurable, and for me my faith is fed so much more with a film like “Silence” rather than “Miracles from Heaven”.