Film Review – Silence (2016)


Title – Silence (2016)

Director – Martin Scorsese (Mean Streets)

Cast – Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver, Liam Neeson, Yôsuke Kubozuka, Shin’ya Tsukamoto

Plot – Catholic priests Father Rodrigues (Garfield) and Father Garrpe (Driver) travel to the potentially deadly Christian hating Japan of the 16th century in hope of both spreading the good word and finding out about the whereabouts of fellow priest Father Ferreira (Neeson), whose been reported to have given up the faith in the shadows of much persecution.  

“I pray but I am lost. Am I just praying to silence?”

Review by Eddie on 13/02/2017

One of the harder watches of recent memories and an experience likely to drive a high percentage of ill-informed audience members scrambling for the exit signs before its conclusion, Martin Scorsese’s long gestating passion project Silence, upon reflection is certainly not an easy film to recommend.

Slowly paced, perhaps a little too long in the tooth, uncompromising in its intentions and more than a few times quite confrontational, this piece of art and quickly forgotten about epic by one of cinemas most renowned voices will divide many but there’s little doubt this almost masterpiece is a unique and layered film that is unlike anything else we cinema goers have seen before.

Adapting Shûsaku Endô renowned novel of the same name, Scorsese and his impressive behind the scenes team including regular editor Thelma Schoonmaker, costume designer Ellen Lewis and some stunning and well deserved Oscar nominated D.O.P work by Rodrigo Prieto who gives Silence an almost otherworldly feel as he uses the Taiwanese locations to great effect have set out to create a largely word driven experience that ponders the idea of faith of beliefs whilst shining a light on the plight of Christians in 1600 centaury Japan where they were often required to lay their lives on the line for their very beliefs.

The audience is thrown into this world as Andrew Garfield’s Father Rodrigues and Adam Driver’s Father Garrpe, both Jesuit priests tasked with unlocking the mysterious disappearance of Liam Neeson’s fellow preacher Father Ferreira find themselves in the beautiful yet unforgiving lands of the Japanese and from a seemingly simple set-up Scorsese uses the narrative to explore various religious themes and debates that may leave many audience members numb mixed with boredom whilst others will be tightly enthralled by the spell cast within a film that seems intent on letting its story play out before our eyes with nothing pressing it forward at any great speed.

Silence’s greatest weakness in the form that it has come out in is within its lack of warm emotional resonance and while sympathy and sorrow is found throughout, the ties that bind such an epic film are left wanting when it comes to a bond formed between the audience and the travails of these faithful Christian’s.

Largely led by Garfield’s Rodrigues, a turn in which on the back of Hacksaw Ridge suggests the young actor has entered into another level of his career, Silence often feels as though it’s one tiny moment away from landing a big emotional wallop but it never comes and while it’s a nice change of pace to see Scorsese away from the sometimes showmanship nature of his recent films like Wolf of Wall Street there are times where Silence may’ve benefited from a little more of the directors famed pizazz.

It’s not hard to see why Silence has failed to capture traction at the Box Office or why it was largely shunned at Awards ceremonies over the previous months and while disappointing in certain regards it feels unwise to discount this eye capturing event as a film that will live long into the coming years as its future fans discover a hidden gem just waiting to be discovered and discussed by those that find it a true conversation starter.

A unique entry into the stunning filmography of a master storyteller, Silence is a passion project with rough edges and missed opportunities but a project that rewards on many levels while offering more deep thinking ponderings than many other films would dare to dream up and is likely to be an experience that will reward those willing to give the film chances to grow over multiple viewings, no matter how hard a trek it may be.

4 confessions out of 5

20 responses to “Film Review – Silence (2016)

  1. I agree with your terrific review – and I looked at my watch a few times – yet images and ideas from this stay with me on quite a deep level.

  2. I honestly thought Silence was way too long. Had it been about an hour shorter, then we could have had a very good film, but as it stands, it’s a darn right bore!

  3. I haven’t seen this movie but I think I might try to watch it. I don’t know if this became a passion project for Scorsese due to the subject matter or not. Several years ago, I remembered seeing an interview with him when he said he sincerely considered becoming a priest. He felt that was his calling at the time. You always do informative reviews, Eddie without spoilers. I appreciate that!

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  5. Great review guys and we agree on the rating of this film. You raise an interesting question about audience response; is it the torture, the religious themes, the christian polemic, or what has turned off the crowds? This film is tough going. It is also both complex and at the same time very simple: religious arrogance is responsible for untold misery through the ages. But the 2 hours and 40 minutes are well spent. I’m not sure about the casting of Andrew Garfield: he looked too fresh throughout his ordeal so I’m ambivalent about whether he was the best choice for this role.

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