Silence (2017): “I pray but I am lost. Am I just praying to silence?”

Directed by Martin Scorsese

Written by Jay Cocks & Martin Scorsese

Music by Kathryn Kluge & Kim Allen Kluge

Cinematography by Rodrigo Prieto

Film Editing by Thelma Schoonmaker

Starring Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver, Liam Neeson, Tadanobu Asano, Ciaran Hinds & Issei Ogata

UK release date: 1st January 2017

Feature running time: 161 minutes

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THE PREMISE:

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. (Source: IMDB)

THE MOVIE NERD’S REVIEW:

Widely known as a passion project of Scorsese’s, he had fought hard to bring this one to the big screen for the last two decades. Such as it is, many of you may be mistaken in thinking that this is an original screenplay adaptation of the 1966 highly acclaimed novel by Shusaku Endo, when it is in fact a remake of a previous effort in translating this book to screen back in 1971.

The book and indeed Scorsese’s screen offering say a heck of a lot about its powerful themes that take such an overwhelming hold of the viewer and these include: the power of Christianity, the strong belief and faith in God and the doubts whether or not he even actually exists at all, and questioning yourself about the importance of religion i.e. does religion matter so much in the overall scheme of things when no prayers get answered? This film is by no means an easy watch due to the nature of it and at 2 hours and 40 minutes long, patience from most that sit down to watch this will most likely be really tested. I stress in saying that this is absolutely not a film to enjoy or be entertained by, but one that is such a transcendent and enlightening cinematic experience. A film that you’ll go away thinking a lot about for days to follow after watching it, personally for me, as a Christian myself, it really reshaped my views in God and the afterlife among other things. I had to see this more than once to fully appreciate it and take every little detail in by giving it my full and complete undivided attention; and by doing so, I have led myself to believe that Scorsese has crafted such an accomplished and masterful piece of work here.

Not one to shy from such movie controversy, this isn’t the first religious film the auteur film-maker has tackled having made The Last Temptation of Christ in 1988. The difference with that being its a story that all Catholics and Christians are very familiar with, where we experience what Jesus Christ was like in his several last hours of being alive before facing crucifiction – an historical event that was made even more brutal and violent in Mel Gibson’s The Passion of The Christ 16 years later in 2004. This time, we’re entering altogether new and unfamiliar territory by getting transported back to 17th Century Japan, where being a Christian is strictly forbidden on all accounts and you must resort to a way and life of that of a Buddhist. If any refused such a request, there will be many levels of torture laid down on the poor souls that aren’t so quick to give up their faith and everything they believe in. What starts off by being forced by the Japanese to stamp their feet down on a picture of God/Jesus leads to even more severe punishment such as spitting on a crucifix and saying out aloud that the blessed virgin Mary is a whore, something that’s damning hard for any Christian to openly say when realising they’re soon to face slow and painful deaths should they choose not to apostate their faith in God.

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During his time post-Spider-Man, Andrew Garfield has carefully been picking worthy enough leading roles as of late and his role of Father Rodrigues has shaped up to be one of the greatest performances he’s given us so far. You can see all the anger and anguish and sadness in his eyes and hear it in his voice as he becomes prisoner to all the officials of Japan that plan on abolishing Catholicism entirely. He is supported by Adam Driver as Father Garrupe, another Jesuit missionary who aids Rodrigues during his travels to Japan as they embark on seriously dangerous soil. Driver takes quite a back seat in his role of Garrupe but he has a much bigger role than Liam Neeson as Father Ferreira, the priest that has gone missing. I knew we wouldn’t really get to see much of Neeson until the very final third act of the film but when we do see him, he definitely makes the most of the commanding screen presence he has and has a fair more bit to do than what he was given in Gangs of New York – the only other film that he has worked on so far with Scorsese to date. This story is all centred on Father Rodrigues though, we find out immediately in one of the opening scenes that Father Ferreira has abandoned his faith and life work as a missionary to live a new and fruitful life in Japan. With both Rodrigues and Garrupe refusing to believe the news that their mentor who risked his life to spread Christianity all across Japan, only to just abandon his faith altogether, doesn’t sit well with either of them. Their only hope and mission in life right now is to journey to Japan and find Ferreira and this is all told through Rodrigues’ diary entries and memoirs.

THE MOVIE NERD’S VERDICT:

As I had mentioned earlier, it was virtually impossible to truly admire and fully understand everything that unfolded in this film on a first viewing. Regretfully, I was quite tired on my first watch so that may have a lot to do with me not clicking with it as much as I liked to. The second watch however blew my mind. It may have been totally snubbed at this year’s Oscars (although, The Departed aside, when has any Scorsese film not been snubbed?), Silence is a very spiritual and life changing movie experience. Watch it with a completely open mind and then get back to me with your thoughts once its finished. An essential must-see from Martin Scorsese.

★★★★ 1/2

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