FORGOTTEN MASTERPIECES: Silence (2016)
“The price for your glory is their suffering.”
“Silence” follows two Jesuit priests: Sebastião Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) and Francisco Garupe (Adam Driver) who venture into Shogun-era Japan in search for their lost mentor, Cristóvão Ferreira (Liam Neeson). Danger of persecution by the Shogunate government lies around every corner.
At age 73, with a filmography of over 20 films spanning 54 years, auteur Martin Scorsese shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon with this film.
Shown by expert direction from a jeweler’s eye for good cinema, it is clear that Scorsese put his heart and soul into this film. Unusually straying away from his previous crime/thriller plots, Scorsese challenges our perceptions of faith and loyalty in an entirely new and unique way.
A Passion Project:
“Silence” is based upon the 1966 novel of the same name, written by Shūsaku Endō, a vital writer from Japan’s “Third Generation” Era. Scorsese discovered the novel in 1989, and has been attempting to complete a film adaptation since 1990. For 26 years, the project was in development hell. This was in part due to Scorsese’s own doubts about about which path to take for the film. His passion project had to be perfect in his view, and time certainly granted the aid he needed.
The portrayals from the Portuguese missionaries to the Japanese peasants are all some of the best performances in Scorsese’s filmography. Andrew Garfield, in his prime of his career, is so efficiently able to shift from calm to sporadic and unstable in mere seconds. He skillfully exudes the mental brutality, his character suffers. Backed by previous roles such as those in “The Social Network” (2010) and his Oscar-nominated role in “Hacksaw Ridge” (2016), Garfield proves himself as a force to be reckoned with.
Adam Driver, who stars alongside Garfield, also hold his own. Fresh from his role in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” (2015), he is proving to be a rising power in Hollywood. Portraying the more conservative Father Garupe, Driver’s reserved performance shines as one of confliction and skepticism.
Despite being well-known for his action roles, Liam Neeson shows his dramatic chops in brief in opening scene as an older, broken priest, who questions his own belief system.
The multitude of Japanese actors are able to hold their own alongside the Western-dominated cast. Shinya Tsukamoto and Yōsuke Kubozuka particularly shine as two Christian peasants who are directly persecuted for their faith.
Scorsese hasn’t been afraid of controversial subjects, least of all religion. His 1988 masterwork "The Last Temptation of the Chris"t, a retelling of the life of Jesus, received such controversy and hate for its vision that it was banned in several countries, some of whom hold the ban to this day, and a Paris theater playing the film was set aflame.
Scorsese, a non-practicing Catholic himself, returns to the subject matter of faith in “Silence”. Challenging the idea of an infallible creator, the film puts both the characters and audiences alike to the test, challenging whether or not one could keep their faith in God, and even in other people despite such tragic, inhumane circumstances. Scorsese, in doing this, tests his own faith as well, riding alongside us.
“Silence” presents some of the best camerawork in Scorsese’s filmography. Primarily focusing on wide, static shots of the Japanese landscape, “Silence” presents the country as one of mystery, curiosity, and danger.
Veteran D.P. Rodrigo Prieto leaves us with beautiful, carefully selected shots of the hazardous environment, and of people, portraying connections of reliance, power, and personal relationships with god.
Despite being a commercial failure, “Silence” proves to be one of Scorsese’s best works of the past decade. Unyielding in its confrontation of religion and the Japanese hierarchy, Scorsese gifts us a thought provoking, violent, and at times exploitative study of the human belief system