REVIEW – “Silence”
It only seems fitting that The Wolf of Wall Street, a film filled with countless sins and debauchery, is followed up by Silence; a film that feels like Scorsese’s pleading confession and request for forgiveness to God. I’m not a particularly religious person, but if God is into masterful filmmaking, then Silence should be Martin Scorsese’s one-way ticket to Heaven. The film begins in the 17th century with Father Ferreira (Liam Neeson) lost in Japan and force to denounce his faith to God, in-order to spare his life and potentially the lives of others. Years later, the news gets back to two Portuguese Jesuits, Sebastião Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) and Francisco Garrpe (Adam Driver), who were mentored by Ferreira. They believe it to be urgent and go on a journey from Portugal to Japan in order to find their mentor and possibly save him and his faith before it’s too late.
I’ll tell you straight-up that if you’re automatically turned off by the fact that this is nearly three hours, mostly dialogue driven, and all about religion in the 17th century – then PLEASE AVOID THIS. It most definitely will not be for you. However, if you’re the kind of person who hears Scorsese’s name and automatically wants to sit through whatever he makes, then you’re in for a treat. Unlike his last few films that have been decently commercial, Silence is incredibly brutal, dense, poetic, and downright depressing. This isn’t particularly a film that you enjoy while you’re watching it, but one that you simply experience and let it wash over you. I’m writing this a day after seeing the film, and I still don’t know if all my thoughts have settled in. This is a heavily-package piece of art, but one that is damn’ well worth unraveling if you can.
I don’t have to tell you that Scorsese’s direction is the best thing about this film, but I’ll do it anyways. He is truly one of the last remaining directors that knows how to tell a story by the way he frames and moves his camera. On top of that, this is also one of his best looking films to date; which isn’t a surprise considering his DP was Rodrigo Prieto (The Wolf of Wall Street and Babel) shot this on 35mm film. Any other director would simply not be able to pull this off, but Scorsese somehow manages to blend the violence, heavy religion, depressing mood, and intensity near perfectly. The supporting cast here is immensely solid, as Driver and Neeson each get their own moments to shine. Andrew Garfield is the one driving this, though. He turns in what is arguably his best performance to date. A subtle, quiet, and nuanced performance that is immensely layered and complex and will ultimately break your heart. The arc of his character in this is just astoundingly poetic and endlessly fascinating, which makes him an excellent driving force for a film so heavy in themes.
There’s probably many hints of different themes within Silence that I’m yet to unravel after a mere one-viewing. But at its core, it is simply about religious persecution and the struggle to hold on to not only your faith, but your humanity, in times of great adversity and weakness. This is as much a film about religion as it is about the human spirit, and devotion to anything you truly believe in. As I stated, I’m not religious, but I found this endlessly compelling and one of the most essential pieces of filmmaking that I’ve seen in 2016. Many will complain about the running time of the film, but it spoke like poetry for me. I didn’t want it to keep going, but I didn’t want it to end. I just succumbed at Scorsese’s hand and let him throw his genius at me. It was well worthwhile. 5/5.