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It's Scorsese. Martin Scorsese. He makes the best films. Is this one of
his best? Hmm....
It's a personal/religious epic, but it's all about the interior self - an intimate epic, which is always the toughest to pull off. Silence chronicles morality in such a way that is staggering and with very few specks of light (that is, brief relief through laughter - it does come through the character Kichijiro, more on him in a moment), and it's practically an anomaly to be released by a major studio with such a budget and big stars. This is a story that comes from history you rarely ever get to see anymore - history from a country like Japan that doesn't involve samurai (at least how we see them) and dealing with Christianity vs Buddhism - and it's directed with a level of vision, I mean in the true, eye-and-heart opening sense that declares that this man still has a lot to say, maybe more than ever, in his latter years.
Silence is, now pondering it hours after seeing it, possibly the best "faith-based" film ever made (or at least since Last Temptation of Christ); in its unintentional way, a great antidote to those pieces of garbage like God's Not Dead and War Room which preach only to a select few and insult the intelligence of everyone else. In this story of Jesuit priests who go on a journey to find a priest who may be long gone but could be found and brought home, it's meant for adults who can and should make up their own minds on religion and God, and the persecution part of it isn't some ploy from the filmmakers for fraudulent attention. This is about exploring what it means if you have faith, or how to question others who do, and what happens when people clash based on how people see the sun. Literally, I'm serious.
It's also heavier than most other films by this director, which is good but also tough to take on a first viewing. And yet it feels always like a Scorsese film, not only due to the rigorous craft on display (I could feel the storyboards simmering off on to the screen, I mean that as a compliment, this is staggeringly shot by Rodrigo Prieto, I'm glad Scorsese's found another guy), or the performances from the main actors (Garfield is easily giving his all, and not in any cheesy way, Driver's solid, Neeson seems to be paying some sort of penance for some mediocre action fare), but because of a key character: Kichijiro.
He's someone who really fits in to the Scorsese canon of characters who are so tough to take - he makes things difficult for Rodrigues, to say the least, and yet keeps coming back like some sad pathetic dog who can't make up his mind - but, ultimately, the toughest thing of all for this Father, as it must be for this filmmaker, is 'I know he is weak and irrational and probably bad in some way... but he must be loved as all of other God's children.' So as far as unsung performances for 2016 go, Yôsuke Kubozuka follows in a tradition set out by none other than De Niro (think of him in Mean Streets and Raging Bull, it's like that only not quite so angry).
I may need another viewing to fully grasp it. But for now, yes, see it, of course. For all its length and vigorous explorations and depictions of suffering (occasionally highly graphic), not to mention the, for Scorsese, highly unusual approach of a lack of traditional (or any) music or score, it's unlike anything you'll see in cinema this year, maybe the decade, for pairing the struggle of a man to reconcile his God and his responsibility to others in a repressive regime with the visual splendor of something from another time - maybe Kurosawa if he'd had a collaboration with Bergman. And yet for all of this high praise, there's also a feeling of being exhausted by the end of it. Whether that exhaustion extends to other viewings I'm not sure yet. As a life-long "fan" of this director, I was impressed if not blown away.
It begins with a cacophonous medley of environmental sounds, such as
crickets chirping, before cutting to absolute silence and the title.
And then to a shot of severed heads. Perhaps this is Scorsese adding in
some of his signature bits of artistic representations and violence.
But what follows is an excruciating exercise in repetition, as faith is
tested again and again for nearly three hours, with a relentlessness
better reserved for succinct motifs, not heavy-handed, protracted
lessons on religious dogmata.
"There's little peace for us now." The progress of spreading Christianity in Japan has been halted by persecution and destruction. The remaining padres have - along with their followers - been brutally murdered. Some even ask to be tortured to demonstrate their faith in God, but the end result is the same.
When a letter reaches Father Valignano (Ciaran Hinds), purporting that one of the strongest of all priests, Father Ferreira (Liam Neeson), has apostatized and taken up a Japanese wife, two young padres refuse to accept such an unequivocal falsity. Resolute in clearing his name, they determine to make the hazardous journey to Japan to find out the truth about Ferreira's whereabouts. Father Garrpe (Adam Driver) and Father Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) were directly under his tutelage, and so procure a Japanese man, Kichijiro (Yosuke Kubozuka), living in Macao, to aid in their smuggling onto the island.
By 1640, Garrpe and Rodrigues are the last two priests to witness the aftermath of the 20 years of Jesuit persecution in Japan. They make their way to the tiny village of Tomogi before moving on to Goto, where remnants of Christian believers still secretly practice their faith. They must hide during the day and hold mass in the dead of night, always in fear of being found out by the Inquisitor (Issei Ogata), an elderly, somewhat comical man charged with seeking out and eradicating the perceived threat of Christianity.
"Silence" does exhibit stellar performances, especially when it comes to exceptional courage through unshakeable beliefs (Driver being far more convincing than Garfield, in appearance and speech). There are also opportunities for contrasts and fluctuations in adherence to such religious principles, particularly with Kichijiro, who comes to represent many of the failed ideologies mistranslated or misunderstood in proliferating a system so fundamentally alien to many of the formerly Buddhist inhabitants. Doubt also creeps in, as Garrpe grows impatient and Rodrigues questions the illusory habits of a deity that unexplainably remains absent in the most anguishing of times. The two priests, along with most of the villagers, are desperate for tangible signs of faith - signs that occasionally become more valuable than faith itself.
In this perpetual search for validation and proof of God's omniscience, there are numerous sequences of profound conviction, made more striking by the increasing pitifulness of the survivors and the escalation of tortures inflicted on those who refuse to renounce the invading religion. But, correspondingly, in this indulgent, overlong epic of potent morals, where the individualization of religious implications routinely trumps the bigger picture (along the lines of the infuriating yet purposeful justifications seen in "A Man for All Seasons"), there's fleeting entertainment value to be found. It's a historical lecture more than a moving examination of theological unity or human weakness, and surely a plodding series of reiterations on shaping spirituality through pain and fear. It's not quite the "priestsploitation" nonsense that it could have been, but it's nevertheless redundant, light on engaging drama, heavy on physical and psychological trials, and sparse on monumental ideas. Particularly with its finale, "Silence" attempts to think for the audience, so that they don't have to strain to uncover subtle genuineness; religious viewers will certainly interpret various sequences to a greater (or different) degree than those without perspectives comparable to the characters on screen.
- The Massie Twins
The experience is extraordinary from different reasons. Martin Scorsese with a legendary career behind him breaks new ground with the fierce and renewed passion. A film made for the love of film not for box office expectations. A work of love from beginning to end. Then, Andrew Garfield. What a year for this young spectacular actor. The kindness in his eyes made the journey so personal for me. I must say that I've been very lucky because I've been lead by my mentor (another Martin by the way)into the world of Scorsese. I found Scorsese's films brilliant yes, but too dark, too violent and hopeless and my mentor said, "No, don't stay in the periphery, go in. You'll see Martin Scorsese's films are religious experiences" Well I got in, I saw, I felt, I understood and as a consequence I wept for most of Silence. Thank you Marty and Martin from the bottom of my heart.
Saw an advance screening: This is a powerful film, incredibly challenging and well-acted. Amazing location footage, historical details from 17th century Japan, and depiction of a clash of cultures between East and West. Scorsese is clearly doing a Kurosawa homage here, as the film has an old-fashioned epic feeling to it. As for the plot based on Shusako Endo's historical novel, it's remarkably even-handed. At the time of the isolationist Tokugawa shogunate, which only ended in 1867 after American gunboats forced Japan's ports to reopen to trade, the Japanese clearly saw the Catholic faith as symbolic of Western cultural and political takeover. But does that justify the torture, coercion, and killing of Christians to make them abandon their faith? We might consider a historical analogy: When the Spanish later felt the same way, driving the Moors out of Spain and forcing those who remained to convert to Catholicism because of the perception that Islam symbolized cultural and political takeover, do we excuse the Spanish Inquisition? The best answer might be that we can understand even if we do not excuse violent push-backs against invading cultures. There is perhaps an allegory here, as well, to the current plight of Syrian refugees and their reception or non-reception by European nations. In any event, the themes here are rich and complex, and the cast -- particularly Garfield, Neeson, Driver, and the masterful Japanese actor who plays the inquisitor -- are outstanding. This is Scorsese at his finest, eschewing black-and-white thinking in favor of complex moral dilemmas. I don't think I've ever seen a mainstream Hollywood film that is as intelligent about addressing cross-cultural and inter-religious dialogue as "Silence." The anguish of religious faith is part of what's going on here, but it's only the centerpiece of a very rich cinematic canvas.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
20 years in the making (apparently) and yet the most stark silence was that of the audience after the movie who clearly and with understandable deference to the Scorsese canon, were unwilling to immediately call this movie out for the self-indulgent disaster it actually is and could find few words to compensate for the searing boredom most had undoubtedly endured. Perhaps it's art masquerading as entertainment but, for me, it fails as either. The story was sparse, the characters undeveloped, the cinematography sometimes lush and promising and often the best thing about the movie. The message? There was little here that gave me anything to chew on. Faith is a tough gig at any time but particularly on a clandestine crusade in 17th century Japan? Sure. When life is almost unbearably awful the promise of paradise in the afterlife is alluring? Uh-huh. Belief is riddled with ambiguity, uncertainty, fear and doubt. Yep, I get it. If we were meant to sympathise or even empathise with a mission to convert the peasant classes in isolated and xenophobic Japan then I failed, badly. When God spoke in the silence I got confused, more worryingly so did the Jesuit priest. What was the question Scorsese was struggling so obviously to answer? I don't know but as Bukowski once said "for those who believe in God most of the big questions are answered" and for those who don't? Well they have an opportunity to be their own God.
With regards to Martin Scorsese's SILENCE, let me just put it this way,
I saw Scorsese's 1988's "The Last Temptation Of Christ," back when I
was in college, as you know that film was also an adaptation, and I
thought it was pure masterpiece just in terms of its themes because
whether or not you'd want to argue that perhaps that some of the
approach may have been sacrilegious or religiously inconsiderate, if
you will, to me it was about wondering the what if's and whether or not
doubt has any footing in order for faith to grow. To a certain extent,
SILENCE conveys something similar.
Based on Shusaku Endo's novel, SILENCE is about two Jesuit missionaries who travel to Japan because they have heard that their mentor, Father Ferreira (Liam Neeson) has publicly denounced God. At the time, Christianity was outlawed in Japan, so in their search for their missing mentor, they endure torture, suffering, and the ultimate test of faith.
In a way you could say that SILENCE is Martin Scorsese's way of paying respect to the legendary filmmaker Akira Kurosawa especially for us fans who grew up watching old time Japan's samurai classics, although SILENCE is not action-driven obviously, but the authoritarian rule depicted in this film is definitely something that's culturally based on that particular era.
From technical standpoint, SILENCE is as rich and complex as the story itself, even the violence is done in a graphic yet artistic manner. Because the story is told through Andrew Garfield's Father Rodrigues' perspective, you'll find some of the shots from inside his prison cell, looking out, with the frame being in between the wooden bars, to be quite engrossing. It makes the tension all the more real because your mind just keeps racing, you don't know how much more gruesome it would get. Odd to say this but it sort of becomes a point of anticipation, it's as if every other half-hour or so, you know some Christians are going to get tortured and so you're just bracing for impact. Martin Scorsese's ever-so-reliable high standard quality filmmaking is present through and through, so there's no disappointing you there.
After being religious and full of conviction in "Hacksaw Ridge" as a Seventh-Day Adventist, actor Andrew Garfield becomes religious and full of conviction again, this time in "Silence" and what's interesting is that both films feature Japanese people. All that aside, this is yet another evidence of Garfield's commitment to his work, the same goes for Adam Driver and Liam Neeson who not only went through physical changes, you actually feel a bit concerned for their health, but that conviction is shown in their eyes. It's amazing to see how this former Spider-Man quickly this powerful force. The Japanese actors are equally outstanding, especially Issey Ogata whose performance has his own flamboyant way of being ruthless.
This is Scorsese's long passion project, he had been wanting to do this film for years, but the question remains, and those of you who've watched the film are probably wondering it as well. And my answer is no, I don't think SILENCE means to demonize Buddhism. If this film is Scorsese's way of promoting Christianity, then that is his prerogative. But throughout mankind's history, there had been many cases in many lands where the majority religion, whatever religion that maybe, persecutes the minority religion because they view them as a dangerous threat; a symbol of a potential takeover. Inquisitions have happened everywhere. Which leads me back to what I said earlier about how SILENCE reminds me a lot of "The Last Temptation Of Christ," we see men who are supposed to be like rocks, seemingly falter and start to question their faith, but perhaps questioning your faith is one way of reaffirming it. Liam Neeson's character in this film has a counter argument to Andrew Garfield's Rodrigues and he may make a bit of sense if you see it from his version of truth.
-- Rama's Screen --
"Silence" is Martin Scorsese's latest masterpiece of cinema that he's
brought us since his 2013 hit "The Wolf of Wall Street". Silence
follows two Jesuit priests played by Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver
who invoke on a mission to go to Japan to find and rescue their mentor,
Father Ferrera (played by Liam Neeson) and to spread the faith to the
Japanese at the same time.
"Silence" was a film that Scorsese spent the past few decades trying to make and even though it took him such a long time to bring this powerful story to the big screen I'm just glad that it got made. "Silence" is adapted from the novel of the same name by Japanese author, Shusaku Endo. I read the book and loved it and the movie is just as up to par as the book. This is one of the best adaptations of a book I've ever seen, the movie has all the plot points, themes, and messages the book had and brought it to the screen flawlessly.
The acting in this film is phenomenal. Every person in this film is on the top of their game no matter how big or small their role was in this film. Andrew Garfield's performance in "Silence" better get him that golden statue because he gave such a powerful and emotionally draining performance to the point that I forgot that I'm even watching a movie. Seeing Liam Neeson actually give a dramatic and emotional performance was great, it was nice to see him take his time to be in this film and not go off and do another mediocre action movie.
The cinematography is absolutely gorgeous in this film and there's not one shot that feels out of place or out of focus. Scorsese directs the hell out of this movie and never loses focus one bit, he better get nominated for best director for the Oscars.
One thing I will say about "Silence" is that it is very long and very hard to watch at times. Considering that the film is about the test of one man's faith automatically seems like an emotionally draining film, it's nowhere what you thought you'd imagine while watching this film. You see our protagonist (Garfield) go through hell and back while watching and experiencing such horrific things. There were times where I teared up and there were times where I grimaced, and there were times where I just wanted to see the suffering end. If there were to be another title of this film it would be called "Suffering", no joke.
What else can I say, Scorsese pulls another masterpiece out of the box and deserves all the credit he deserves for just making this film alone. If you love Scorsese's work I highly suggest you to go see "Silence" because this is one of his finests without a doubt.
Viewers should hail a taxi in hopes that the driver will rescue them
from the three plus hours they will lose watching this Kurosawa
"Wantanabe" film. The photography was great but that did not make up
for a topic that was fully explored previously by James Clavelle.
To quote Scorsese, "Cinema is gone." I should have been gone well before the film completed.
Perhaps, competition has been causing TV to improve and the lack of competition, formula movies, special effects, inflated-paid IMDb reviews, robots, and Chinese funding have been working in tandem to destroy the movie going experience.
If three hours of Silence was not brutal enough the coming attractions don't augur well for the future. Let's see Transformers, another robot angst movie, Split, another randomly gratuitous horror movie, and other tripe will mean that the silence of movies present will continue well into the future.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
An artist's identity may look complex at first, but on deeper analysis
a lifetime's work betrays distilled and inescapable pillars. Scorsese's
Italian, Catholic, East Coast identities hide behind no subtleties. A
pillar of identity does not determine one's belief system or political
views. It does not control actions, opinions or decisions. It is an
essence that outstays an individual's will and persists in spite of
There are atheists, and then there are lapsed Catholics. I am of the latter sort and though I have not professed any form of faith for three-fourths of my life, the dogmas of that first fourth condition my anguish.
The harrowing silence of God: His failure to answer prayers, no matter how fervent; the inescapable injustice of existence; the transparent deception that reward for suffering and iniquity is only given in the beyond from whence no one can give witness to the benevolence of the divine.
This violent emptiness is an exquisite shudder down the back of those who pray and those who have long since stopped praying.
And cinema, made of sounds and of images, of reflections and actions, of experience and supposition, has on occasion paused to listen to God's silence.
The returning crusading knight in Bergman's The Seventh Seal (1957) heaved in exalted frustration at God's apparent indifference to the Black Death. Jehanne the Maid expected St Michael or even Christ Himself to testify for her at the trial when bishops and monks condemned her for heresy. Dreyer's La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc (1928) is famous for exceptionally telling the story of the trial from the point of view of the Maid and her entirely legitimate questions: If not for the most fervent martyrs for the faith, for whom will God deign to break his silence and show an inkling of his power? When will God right all the wrongs?
And if life is such a precious divine gift, why does God expect its faithful to throw it away when faced by the prospect of martyrdom when a formal abjuration could preserve that life?
These are inevitable questions for anyone who has ever been a Catholic. We are brought up to beg for the opportunity to be challenged to throw away the miseries of our mortal lives in witness of fervent faith and hope of eternal life.
And yet, even Jesus, the first and most obvious martyr, wailed at the torment of the abandonment and loneliness left by the deafening silence of God. 'Father, why have You forsaken me?' Would this not be a good time for that drama You pulled at my baptism at the hands of John?
A younger Martin Scorsese made The Last Temptation of Christ (1988). If Jesus was man, and his suffering was to mean anything, he could not be exempt from the doubt and fear that the afterlife and the eternal righting of wrongs may be a hoax.
Back when that film was out, the Catholic hierarchy rattled their fatwas at the notion of Jesus the Man wishing, even for a moment, for a long life with a wife and relative prosperity.
But Jesus is no example to other humans if he cannot be imagined to have the desires of other humans: sex, money, life itself. The basic needs so devoutly to be wished for while nailed to a cross facing oblivion for a trumped up charge.
And, what's worse, on behalf of a God who cannot be bothered to look at the scene for long enough to comment and comfort by some evidence or experience of His presence.
Silence, is a retelling of The Last Temptation of Christ, without the confusing dogmatic debate of the duality of the Jesus figure. Instead, the heroes are 17th century Portuguese missionaries smuggled into Sengoku Japan where Christianity was banned and persecuted.
Several critics have complained about the white man's burden perspective of a story on missionaries. We no longer approve of the zeal of proselytisers and we are embarrassed by the damage done in the name of the cross throughout the globe in what was arrogantly called the Age of Discovery.
But the film is perfectly conscious of the incoherence, the intellectual arrogance, the disruptive and destructive venom of proselytization. It has several Japanese characters, suspiciously gracious, polite and enlightened to the extent that they are probably better representatives of our sensibilities of our time than any historically accurate bailiffs of the Nagasaki regime, making the point and poking the logical holes in Christian zeal even as they boil, behead and burn stubborn anonymous cross-wielders with a very vague appreciation of theology.
But this is no historical drama, in spite of all the trappings of a Kurosawa dramatization.
This is about the questions Jesus asked on the cross, and following his example, the doubts of all the Joans, Lawrences, Catherines and so on when faced by martyrdom purely on a matter of point.
Why will not God speak up? How can I know God has chosen me to suffer this death and what if, after all he has not?
The Jesuits in this story have different answers to those questions and the answers they give determine in one way or another their fates. But, they must wonder, where the answers they came up with truly their own, or was God thinking through them?
I disagree with those who described this film excessively devotional. Devotion requires fervour, and fervour is the abject abandonment of doubt. This film is about doubt.
I do not believe in God. But I always think of Him, and wonder if He thinks of me too. It is not just an artist's identity that is distilled by his work. It also distills the identity of the viewer and this film has touched mine.
After receiving a worrying letter from their mentor Ferreira (Liam
Neeson) from Japan, Portuguese priests Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) and
Garrpe (Adam Driver) embark on a journey to reach Japan in order to
find their beloved colleague and help the Christians against the
religious oppression perpetuating during the 1600s by the hand of the
I think that the best way to explain my thoughts on this film are to start by explaining my history with legendary director Martin Scorsese. Whilst I think that "The Departed" is a top-notch film and find "Hugo" to be a really well told tale, I have rarely had the pleasure to enjoy his films. That's just how it is. From the 1970s right down to his latest efforts I have always had a really hard time with Scorsese and I have grown to actively dislike some of his films, whilst still finding something to mine and appreciate in them.
I find that there is a common thread with what I come to dislike in his pictures. Firstly, I have always had a hard time in keeping up with his third acts, from "Cape Fear" to "Goodfellas" I have always carried myself through to the ending forcefully and have rarely appreciated his climaxes. I have always felt them as meandering and over long, not really getting to a point. Which brings me to my biggest problem, with the exceptions listed above, I have never left a Scorsese feature with something to take with me, I've never had a payoff, his films have generally left me cold and empty, his thematic explorations have often frustrated me and given me not much to appreciate.
I once felt like this must be a coincidence, but the pattern has repeated itself too many times for it to be considered so, "Silence" being no the confirmation and actually embodying the worst about my criticisms. This is a religious slog-fest that made me angry in its self importance and complete nonsensical length.
Now, I don't want to appear like I'm a jerk, whilst everything I said above is true I can't help but have anything but respect for Scorsese, he is a giant of cinema, his achievements are overwhelming, it just so happens that he really has a hard time in matching my taste and whilst he managed to get really on my nerves here, in particular, because of some of the thematic messages, I still find in all of his pictures a lot to appreciate.
For one, "Silence" has a great first half, the drama with the characters is alive and touching, the portrayal of 17th century Japan is raw and unnerving, the atmosphere that is captured is genuinely unsettling. The point of view that is established in this first half is not a religiously inflated one, what is moving about it is how we witness the hatred that man can be brought to and the contrast with the innocence in the Japanese farmers is ever so captivating.
Driver and Garfield really fuel the drama with some remarkably intense performance work that manages to not call attention to itself. Their journey is unpredictable and the recreation of the chaos and the poverty of the time really hits home. The cultural differences are explored on a visual level other than a thematic one and it makes for some really good viewing, I will fully admit that up to the hour and forty five mark I was following the drama attentively.
On a technical level the film does have some fantastic production design, but for the rest there is something that really stands out as being remarkable, probably a reason for which the last hour becomes so overbearingly boring.
Then comes the last hour, which shatters to pieces everything achieved before, changing perspective and escalating in melodramatic, masturbatory, religious bullsh*t with an ending that proves its aimlessness and disgusting self-importance. The drama just turns off, it evolves in a discussion that has no heads nor tails, to the point that I felt like it was contradicting itself at times. The ending is abysmal, ridiculous and trivial in a way that made me stand up and leave the cinema angrily without even waiting for the first credits which I always do.
If I am listening to a full hour of religious debate which combines ethical and moral complexities to it and I am left utterly bored and empty there is something that is worryingly wrong about the film for me. I was lost for words, every word that was uttered was a further step down for the film, a real disgrace because for a good portion it was going for something an succeeding at it, then came the rest of the feature and made me sick with boredom and anger.
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