The story of two Catholic missionaries (Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver) who face the ultimate test of faith when they travel to Japan in search of their missing mentor (Liam Neeson) - at a time when Catholicism was outlawed and their presence forbidden.
Ken Watanabe was originally slated to play the Japanese interpreter for the Jesuit priests. He dropped out before filming commenced. See more »
At 1:15:38, when Rodrigues talks to Monica about what awaits the faithful in Paradise, she is looking directly at him. In the very next shot, her head is bowed. See more »
1633. Pax Christi. Praised be God. Although for us there is little peace in this land now. I never knew Japan when it was a country of light, but I have never known it to be as dark as it is now. All our progress has ended in new persecution, new repression, new suffering. They use ladles filled with holes so the drops would come out slowly, and the pain would be prolonged. Each small splash of the water was like a burning coal. The Governor of Nagasaki took four friars,...
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For the Japanese Christians and their pastors Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam See more »
Three Hours of People Suffering in the Name of Faith
Silence follows two Jesuit priests in Japan; the last Jesuit priests, since the others have either been pushed out or executed. They find themselves in remote villages desperate for Christian guidance, but must spend their days hidden or otherwise risk being seen by the Inquisitor's men (or sold out to them), while they preach and hold mass at night. Once a visit from the Inquisitor spooks the villagers, the priests are separated and sent away. Rodrigues is of course captured by the Inquisitor and endures gruelling trials and torture to push him to apostatise.
In a way, Silence is Scorsese's Passion of the Christ (more so than Last Temptation), as the characters are put through hell in the name of their faith. It's nearly three hours of watching people suffer. Silence is not an easy film to watch. If watching all these people suffering does anything though, it shows the power of faith, and how people cling to their beliefs to the bitter end, willing to endure whatever it takes in the name of what they believe. In this regard, Silence is exquisite food for thought. It highlights both the strengths and weaknesses to religion, and portrays it's different followers. It looks at the power of symbolism, while simultaneously looking at the corruption of idolism. The last remaining Japanese Christians are so desperate for validation from their God that they worship religious imagery at the risk of pain and death. One of the key ways the Inquisitor uses to root out Christians is by getting them to disrespect the imagery they idolise. Because they hold the power of the imagery so high, they refuse, and are subsequently tortured and put to death.
However there is one glaring problem with Silence. At nearly three hours, it's long. This is a really long, dirge of a movie that goes on and on and on. It takes some interesting turns here and there, and the length is good to really drive home the struggle Rodrigues has to endure, but it makes it an unpleasurable watch. It's hard work, and unlikely to be a movie I will ever re-watch. It particularly drags on too long in each of it's two main settings; in the remote villages, and in the Nagasaki cells. I definitely feel a lot could have been trimmed off from these two acts. There were too many scenes in the villages, and Kichijiro's neighbouring village was largely unnecessary. The scenes in the Nagasaki cells could have benefited from being montaged. For instance, there's a scene where Rodrigues watches five Christians be tested by putting their foot on an image of Christ. Rather than condensing this, we see each of the five come up to the plate, refuse, and get sent back, one-by-one. What could've been summed up in thirty seconds takes nearly ten minutes.
Of course being a film titled Silence, it would seem a bit weird not to mention the sound, which is again used really well. The film's score is made up predominantly of ambiance and natural sounds, such as the chirping of insects at dusk. The use of sound effects is really evocative in creating moods and guiding the narrative without the use of too much actual music. For instance, the screams of agony endured by prisoners in Nagasaki are blood-curdling, while Mokichi's hymn with his last breaths is filled with emotion. Then of course there's the use of silence itself, particularly at the film's climax. It's enough to make you sit up and pay attention (which for this film is important to have).
Finally the acting is strong from almost everyone. Andrew Garfield carries the movie expertly and without ever wavering. His Portuguese accent slips every now and then, but not enough to be particularly noticeable. He deserves praise for living the suffering and really encapsulating the blind devotion of Rodrigues in spite of the pain he and others around him endure. Adam Driver is pretty good as his companion, fellow Jesuit priest Garrpe, who grows impatient with the locals and their misunderstanding of the Catholic faith. Liam Neeson doesn't appear all too often, but balances the mentor act he does so well with a more subdued and downtrodden performance, showing the suffering he has also endured and the psychological marks that leaves. The Japanese actors were all quite admirable too, particularly Tadanobu Asano as Rodrigues' interpreter, Yôsuke Kubozuka as Kichijiro, and Shin'ya Tsukamoto as Mokichi. Although I must say I found Issei Ogata's Inquisitor a bit hammed up for my liking. I just couldn't take him seriously, undermining any sense of threat his character was meant to embody.
In closing, Silence is not a movie you can enjoy. It's nearly three hours of watching people suffer and be tortured, and there's no real light at the end of the tunnel. It poses some interesting discussion points on the nature of faith and religious symbolism, but drags on too long and spends too much time hammering it's points. It's a very well made movie, with an interesting story, if imperfectly told, driven by captivating performances both Western and Eastern. However, if you have a vendetta against religion, or Christianity in particular, Silence is not the movie for you. I had two blokes behind me who scoffed any time anything remotely Christian was mentioned, who obviously had a bias against the story that was being told, and eventually walked out forty-five minutes in (and the screening was all the better without their obnoxiously loud talking as well). I give Silence an imperfect 7/10, and would recommend it for Christians and anyone with an open mind.
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