Director: Martin Scorsese.
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver, Tadanobu Asano, Ciarán Hinds, Liam Neeson. USA/Japan. 2h 41m.
Based on: Silence by Shūsaku Endō
Remake of : Os Olhos da Ásia (1996) and Silence (1971)
Probably something that should have been released closer to Easter there was a slightly early release for the Scorsese epic Silence that sees two young Portuguese Jesuit priests follow their beloved leader to Feudal Japan when news that he’s turned his back on his faith and is now living as a Japanese citizen. Sebastião Rodrigues (Garfield) and Francisco Garupe (Driver) leave without much consideration for their safety as Christianity has been outlawed and all followers of the faith are being punished/killed in Japan . After hellish introduction scenes, the torturing of christians continues throughout which is used a tool to pluck the heartstrings. The two priests are; at first harboured by a few loyal converts who live on the fringe of society, mostly to protect themselves as they secretly live as Christians, but not content with living in a communal shed (with a priest’s hide). Rodrigues is obsessed with leaving, finding Father Cristóvão Ferreira (Neeson) and discovering the truth, could his teacher and personal hero really have denounced christ to save himself and now be living in Japan as a citizen? But on embarking out into the world they are soon captured and the truth isn’t quite what he was expecting.
Sometimes Silence is the deadliest sound.
It’s an odd film, while I didn’t really know much about the arrival of Christianity in Japan I certainly feel as if I did learn a lot, obviously this is just a film and while I now grasp the subject I’m going to have to hit lit library to fully understand it, but it’s also a subject I don’t really give a shit about if I’m going to be honest in this review.
The message is loud and clear, and it is important, as it reoccurs a lot throughout history, colonisation of other countries, freedom to practice any religion and persecution are bad things. There is the great defiance in Rodrigues and no matter what was thrown at him, he had his heart and mind in the “right” place, trying to fill the gaps, and find a way around the deep Japanese logic. How far can you go pretending to give up your religion without losing faith? How far do you go to ridicule what you believe in and still believe in it. There is a moving scene when the priests are leaving the village and Rodrigues advises them to “Trample” if they are caught by the Japanese authorities, basically if the cops show up, denounce god to save yourselves. He’s in tears and the village folk don’t want to show their lord and saviour disrespect but Rodrigues can see that it’s perfectly okay to denounce to save yourself to live another day. God will forgive all sins right?
This uncompromising cerebral period drama, co written by Jay Cocks, known for other epics like Gangs of New York (2002), and Ang Lee helped out with the Taiwan sessions. Scorsese can and has produced a fine looking film, a slightly unusual topic but nonetheless it’s gorgeously gory. I had expected to see a few more popular Japanese actors, but Tadanobu Asano (as an interpreter) was the only person I recognized straight away, but this isn’t going to be a popular subject, as with Curse of the Golden Flower (2006) project this isn’t a piece of history that a lot of people would want to “glorify” and bring back to the attention of the public, and for a lot of the film I felt that the main objective was to feel sorry for Christians, but it does dig deeper, and in some cases you have to think outside the box, it could be any country and any religion. Sadly you have to wait a few hours for that to happen. I can’t fathom why it’s so long, there isn’t enough progression within the story for it to really be nearly 3 hours, Scorsese maybe just have this groove of making films this long, it’s obviously his “thang”.
The cast are brilliant, although considering they are supposed to be Portuguese, there is a strange selection, Ciaran Hinds, Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver, just tan them up, darken their hair and they will pass.. this could have been a beautiful opportunity to really boost some careers but I certainly would have swapped the two main priests, Driver definitely looks more the part and had a better presence. Garfield does just about hold the role so well, but kept himself quite restrained. There were tons of other people originally cast inducing Benicio Del Toro and Daniel Day Lewis which would have exploded the characters but, it is what it is.
Between handing out rosary beads, listening to confessions in a language they don’t understand, trying to save their flocks and watching them being tortured and killed in various outrageous way, it’s a powerful movie. It doesn’t really explore anything else in feudal japan though, it focus in intently on religion and nothing else, which is a shame for a movie of this length. It’s incredibly open for interpretation and opinions either side, is Rodrigues a hero or coward? Did he also beome the man who he was tracking down, did he make a difference?
R – Os Olhos da Ásia (1996) and Silence (1971), The Passion of the Christ (2004)
L – Christian Flicks
5S -Andrew Garfield, Martin Scorsese, Liam Neeson
Vs – Silence Vs Silence