Silence: Film Review
Cast: Andrew Garfield, Liam Neeson, Adam Driver, Yosuke Kubozuka,
Director: Martin Scorsese
Rounding off Scorsese's religious trilogy (Kundun, The Last Temptation of Christ), the occasionally bum-numbing Silence, with its 162 minute run time, is very much a story of endurance.
Garfield and Driver play missionaries Rodrigues and Garupe, whose faith is severely tested when one of their own, Father Ferrera (Neeson) disappears bringing the word of the Bible and spreading faith in Japan in 1633.
With authorities determined to root out Catholicism before it even gained groundswell support, Rodrigues and Garupe are forced to scrabble around in darkness, hiding in hillside huts and administering to those seeking absolution by night.
But when the pair split up after learning authorities are on their tail, Rodrigues faces the deepest darkest night of his soul after he's betrayed.
Silence is Scorsese's cry out to a deity that so often many believe works through silence and offers little by way of absolution when great suffering is visited on so many.
It's a reflective and reflexive suffering piece about the purity of faith in the darkest of times and certainly in large parts of its second half, it becomes an internal piece rather than an action filled denouement to all that's passed.
It's distinctly blessed with some fairly visceral and extremely powerful imagery - from the opening scenes of Neeson's Ferrera watching fellow priests tortured by boiling water as the mists of Japan waft mythically through proceedings to striking shots of those convicted of Catholicism strung up on crosses and left on the sea's edge to be broken by the continual flow of waves, this is a film that doesn't shy away from the realities of what the authorities would do.
And yet in among the philosophical edges, and the increasing likeness that a bearded, long haired and bedraggled Garfield bears to the allegory made real of a 1633 Jesus undergoing trials, there's an emotional devastation that's hard to shake. It helps that there's a lack of soundtrack ( a crushing nod to the silence that bedevils our protagonists) and few of Scorsese's trademark zooming shots - this is a stripped back version of the meister's behind the camera work)
Garfield delivers a powerful and haunted performance as the wise Rodrigues (standing in juxtaposition to Driver's brash and impetuous Garcia whose patience is in short shrift); and he manages to convey the internal struggle with heartbreaking ease and nuance. From the continual requests of confession from the Judas-like Kimichi (Kubozuka) whose family was killed because he was Catholic that test his patience and his resolve to the desire to find Ferrara, Garfield shoulders a large portion of this film and more than suitably delivers.
Neeson also delivers strong scenes as Ferrera as the price of martyrdom weighs heavily down (and to say more is to offer spoilers) and as the adaptation of the 1966 novel by Japanese Catholic author Shūsaku Endō resolves.
Silence is a demanding film in many ways; and while the reward is certainly not in the on-screen pay-off, it's perhaps more Scorsese's intention that this soul-searching film stays with you and nudges you to question it and yourself in the days after viewing.