Martin Scorsese is one of my favourite filmmakers, along with Quentin Tarantino. They’re both at a stage of their careers where their name alone is enough to sell their material. This project I’ve known of since the back end of 2015 and even back then i was aware that this was a passion project of his, something he’d been trying to get off the ground since around the early 90’s, though in a recent interview of his he’d been given the book of which the movie is based on back in 1988.
The premise follows 2 Jesuit Portuguese priests in 1633, Sebastião Rodrigues and Francisco Garrpe (portrayed by Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver respectively) as they embark on a journey to uncharted territory in Japan to not only spread the teachings of Jesus but also uncover the whereabouts of their mentor Father Cristovao Ferreira (portrayed by Liam Neeson) who had denounced God in public after being persecuted for his affinity to Christianity.
The performances are all great, Andrew Garfield turns in an awards worthy portrayal of a man who throughout his journey is faithfully challenged constantly and sees himself as a Christ like figure. Driver’s Francisco is the negative to Rodrigues’ positive, consistently doubtful of their quest to find their missing mentor and is perhaps the realist between the two. Garfield brings a gentle humbleness to the role that reflects upon the rest of the pilgrims he encounters. They’re feeble and unassuming, their plight and anguish overwhelmed me to the point where i was almost moved to tears at one point. The embrace and acceptance they had for one another inspired one another even when they’d suffered in silence for all this time.
The Japanese cast really shines here. My favourite character in the entire film is probably the most complex in the image below. His name is Kichijiro, a beady eyed, scruffy wretch of a man that has a tortured past of his own who accompanies the 2 priests who throughout is constantly at odds between them. You can’t really tell where his loyalties lie as he as much if not more than Rodrigues is conflicted of his faith. He’s one of the most multi dimensional characters i’ve seen all year and Yosuke Kubosuka’s performance is worthy of an Oscar nomination. Issey Ogata’s Inoue Masashige is also worthy of contention with his shark smile and dastardly snare giving him a sickening demeanour and Issey chews the scenery every time, which reminds me I really dug the costume design of the inquisitors as well
There’s no shortage in devastation throughout the film, across the environment and the faces of the pilgrims. The persecutions were hard to watch at times, not of the violent nature, but of the pervasive nature of the security officials who seek out hidden Christians as they’re Buddhists. The film powerfully shows their hardened resolve of their devotion to Christ and how something as seemingly simple as stepping on a rock with a carved image of Jesus can free them of the ensuing torture, but in doing so, they feel they’ve disrespected and abandoned their faith entirely. It’s quite excruciating to watch Garfield break down throughout the run time, which clocks in at just under 3 hours which in the end was exhausting not because of the length but of the emotional toll it had on me. There isn’t a lot of violence which is contrary to other efforts like Casino and it never feels exploitative, Scorsese only wants to show the ugly truth.
Much of the pacing is glacial which gives it an epic quality and although the music is scored by Howard Shore (whom Scorsese worked with on The Aviator and Hugo), there’s little to no music in this whatsoever which in turn helps to not manipulate the viewers feelings . It’s reminiscent of No Country For Old Men by the Coen Bros, although because this film is intellectually challenging for audiences, it may test their patience which the screening i went to, there wasn’t much enthusiasm felt. If you’re someone who isn’t that abstract minded, you probably wont like this film compared to Scorsese’s more fast paced efforts like The Departed.
To say that this movie is well made would be an understatement, you really feel Scorsese’s involvement with virtually every aspect of this project, considering he also has producer and writing credits too. The movie is lensed by the same director of photography from The Wolf Of Wall Street and it looks gorgeous, there’s shots that are worthy of a painting at times. Much of the scenery is foggy to give it an empty and apocalyptic nature which helped broaden the scope of the adventure. One of the most remarkable aspects of it’s cinematography is how much of the movie takes place within small, confined spaces and close ups of its characters which reflects the movies intimacy. It feels as if Scorsese has immersed himself in the characters to project their state of being to the viewer as much as possible. Much of the location setting is in small, confined spaces that makes for tighter camera angles that really make you feel the fortitude and despair for it’s characters. The camera movements are trademark Scorsese, like a scene when a character is in a cell and the camera quickly pans to the left give it that much more frustration and lonesomeness.
It’s one of the best movies of the year surely to garner Academy Award nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor and Adapted Screenplay. It’s one of Scorsese’s most meditated efforts and one that resonated with me quite profoundly. I’d certainly recommend it and give it at least a year or so i’d watch it again, not quite one of my favourites of the year though
83% based on 184 reviews
Rotten Tomatoes reads: Silence ends Martin Scorsese’s decades-long creative quest with a thoughtful, emotionally resonant look at spirituality and human nature that stands among the director’s finest works.