Faith In The Purity of Cinema: Our Review of ‘Silence’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - January 06, 2017
Faith In The Purity of Cinema: Our Review of ‘Silence’

It’s very often a shame that a topic of worthy of real debate can on occasion get lost in the shuffle and the spectacle of some big screen majesty.  Silence really isn’t a movie for everyone, especially with its 162 minute run time but this is a beautiful and brilliant examination at the root of so many societal woes and general inability to separate personal matters of faith from issues surrounding organized churches and religion.

Silence takes us to a time when the world was changing at such a fast pace, it was quite simply impossible to keep or acknowledge when the old methods simply wouldn’t work anymore.  Two Jesuit priests, Sebastião Rodrigues and Francis Garrpe (Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver) travel to seventeenth century Japan to search for their old teacher Father Ferreria (Liam Nesson).  Under the Tokugawa shogunate, Japan has banned Catholicism and almost all foreign contact. There they witness the persecution of Japanese Christians at the hands of their own government which wishes to purge Japan of all western influence. The priests eventually separate and Rodrigues travels the countryside, wondering why God remains silent while his children suffer and is thrust into a crisis of faith that is bigger than he could have ever possibly imagined.

This movie is pure pain, but entirely necessary pain as Scorsese puts his heart and his passion on display in an effort that truly about faith and the things we suffer through to endure with our faith while at the same time condemning the structures that have polluted the belief system at the same time.  He has simultaneously made a movie about faith, filmmaking, religion and the studio system.  He celebrates while condemning at the exact same time in a rich tapestry of lush visuals and a mosaic of emotions that will be hard to accept for most but end up melding together just so damn well.  Scorsese who co-wrote the screenplay with Jay Cocks as they adapted the classic book by Shûsaku Endô don’t pull any punches as our emotions remain constantly influx with the story that unfolds in front of us.  It’s never what we think it’s going to be as cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto paints a lush yet also stoic landscape for our protagonists to search through and ultimately fail in.  Scorsese and Prieto allows the fall of the priest to be as visual as it is emotional and it’s something that we just can’t forget.

It’s a testament to the saying that things always happen when they should because that statement can’t be any more true thanks to what should be a career changing performance from Andrew Garfield.  As our padre Rodrigues, Garfield brings a doe eyed humanity and purity to the character which makes his fall all the more tragic and compelling.  This man believes in his faith so wholly that his refusal to see the other side of the coin and how the ruling Japanese state feels about Christianity makes him deeply noble yet deeply flawed all at the same time.  He questions and ruminates and spends time on his faith and doesn’t believe simply because someone else told him, because it is the essence of who he is as a human being.  We feel for Garfield every step of the way, even though in reality we logically want him to fail and gives us such a vast array of emotions to work with and it makes his struggle with everything around him all the more compelling.  Adam Driver is fine and Liam Neeson’s role is small all be it pivotal while the Japanese ensemble embraces the material with no restraint and give Garfield’s character numerous foils to work opposite of.

To put it quite simply, Silence is an emotionally brutal masterpiece.  Scorsese films like a piece of classic Japanese cinema with a slow burning (borderline languid) build which morphs into human drama of the highest form.

Sometimes the films that really have no business seeing the light of day end up at the other end of the tunnel being the very best.  It may have taken Scorsese years to finally see this passion project through, but thankfully for him they were years well spent at his craft and at his faith in cinema itself.  They simply don’t make movies like this anymore.

  • Release Date: 1/6/2017
This post was written by
David Voigt is a Toronto based writer with a problem and a passion for the moving image and all things cinema. Having moved from production to the critical side of the aisle for well over 10 years now at outlets like, Criticize This, Dork Shelf (Now That Shelf), to.Night Newspaper he’s been all across his city, the country and the continent in search of all the news and reviews that are fit to print from the world of cinema.
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