With masterful cinematography and hypnotic performances, Martin Scorsese’s “Silence” is a beautiful, yet soul-draining exploration of faith and its tremendous impact on the human spirit.
1670 – In “Silence,” Sebastião Rodrigues [Andrew Garfield] and Francisco Garupe [Adam Driver] endure a rigorous test of faith in their mission to locate and rescue their mentor and fellow missionary, Father Ferreira [Liam Neeson]. Simultaneously searching for Ferreria and preaching Catholicism in 17th Century Japan, nothing could prepare them for the depravity that will eventually befall them.
Exploring religion is, has been and always will be a touchy subject. In order to question or argue one’s beliefs, one must tread lightly. As we’ve seen, some production studios (Pureflix Entertainment) have adopted the method of indoctrination at the expense of any group that happens to believe in an alternate deity (or none at all). In that case, we should be honored and privileged to witness one of our greatest cinematic treasures show us how it’s done.
“Silence” opens with pitch black, an ambient white noise grows louder and louder, immersing the viewer into a state of unease until it abruptly cuts out. In this moment, I felt the true weight of silence.
Martin Scorsese is no stranger to theology. He considers himself a practicing Catholic, an admission that adds great context to his near-masterpiece. From youth, you’re told quite a many things about what God expects from his children; follow his divine word and you’ll live a life of peace and tranquility. But what about those times when it seems like nobody is listening? If no one is there, then what or who am I speaking to? Scorsese examines such a fear that, as a former Catholic, I’m quite familiar with.
“Silence” is about the extreme lengths of which one’s inner psyche would go to during a crisis of faith. Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver give exquisite, haunting performances as two messengers of the faith who enter Japan with good intentions, only to be gradually twisted into fragile beings. To avert persecution, they must rely on the goodwill of their followers; both groups live on the constant edge of a rope that’s never fully secure.
Clearly influenced from the works of Akira Kurosawa, Scorsese envisions Japan not as a setting, but a character, an often unforgiving character that soaks up every hard-hitting moment. The protagonists are engulfed by their harsh surroundings. Much like a tidal wave, the brutality is unrelenting, including a barbarous form of crucifixion in which water is exploited as a pseudo-torture device.
As Garfield witnesses such depravity from a distance, he suffers with them, all while the chilling Inoue [Issei Ogata] mocks with a simple grin; nothing gives him greater pleasure. In his presence, characters are often persecuted by their isolation within the frame. Such instances give Garfield, Neeson and Driver an intimate moment to reflect on their purpose, their faith, and their entire being. When faced with an insurmountable decision, they force themselves to commit one of the most difficult deeds any religious person could possibly think of: question.
Scorsese understands that the greatest of conflicts come from within; it molds who we are. He offers his own perspective, but doesn’t make any rash judgements. Faith has meaning when the believer is willing to listen and take certain words and images to heart. “Silence” never asks you to believe or disbelief, it simply asks you to observe and take note of their silence.
Matt Bilodeau can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org