What you put your faith in is solely up to you, but it will definitely be tested by life’s teeth, as we see in Martin Scorsese’s latest film, Silence. Scorsese tells the tale of two Jesuit priests in the seventeenth century that face violence when they venture off to Japan to locate their mentor and promote Christianity. This passion project stars a greatly talented cast, including Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver, Liam Neeson, and Tadanobu Asano.
Scorsese is an old school filmmaker that hasn’t conformed to the style of a majority of modern films. He takes his time to develop the characters in Silence, and revels in their thoughts and circumstances. The camera sweeps across the beautiful landscape of Japan, patiently waits for ominous figures to emerge from the thick fog, and contemplates on intricate details, like a particular artifact, to allow the audience a few moments to truly think and interact with what’s happening onscreen. Scorsese does a tremendous job in presenting tension and torture, as well as complex discussions about Christianity, including the universal fear of no one listening to the prayers being sent off to the heavens.This is a film that can be somewhat polarizing and controversial, but it is an epic piece of cinema. One point that holds it back a bit is its length. A slightly tighter edit could make this film flow better, but if you are interested in the topic, you won’t be checking your watch.
Many questions about God and religion are brought up and discussed by the characters in a rich way. This isn’t a film that’s promoting Christianity; it’s a film that depicts the struggles of those who believe in it, especially in the most trying times. The script presents complex thoughts on religion, and also fleshes out its central character very well.
Andrew Garfield plays Father Rodrigues, a devoted Jesuit priest that is on a mission to find his missing mentor, Father Ferreira, played by Liam Neeson. Garfield does a tremendous job, depicting his character’s struggle to maintain his belief in Christianity when so much hell surrounds him in Japan. He questions his faith, as people are tortured and blood is spilled. Garfield intimately embodies this priest that goes on a downward spiral to rock bottom. Father Rodrigues is trying to do what’s right, but at a certain point, he doesn’t know what “right” is anymore. Garfield is award-worthy in his portrayal.
Liam Neeson as Father Ferreira, a priest that lost his way while promoting Christianity in Japan, isn’t in the film for too long, but really leaves an impact. He’s like a lost soul that isn’t completely present in a sense. Neeson portrays this shell of a man he used to be an inspirational Christian force. Adam Driver plays Father Garrpe, and he does an exceptional job as Father Rodrigues’ companion on the mission. Yosuke Kubozuka, who plays the despicable Kichijiro, does a fantastic job as a selfish coward that helps the two priests. Collectively, the performances are captivating in one way or another. There are some moments where accents slip, but it doesn’t ruin anything.
Scorsese has been wanting to make Silence for more than three decades, and it’s worth the wait for those that are interested in the topic of not just religion, but a study of human nature, specifically what can break us down and what can endure in the face of hopelessness. Stripped of artifacts and formality, Father Rodrigues still holds his faith in his heart, even if he is enslaved in mind and body, displaying the truth of the human condition of never losing what you truly believe in.