Verdict: A beautiful portrait of an agonizing tale of faith.
A 26-year gestation period is finally over as Martin Scorsese’s long-awaited baby Silence hits the theatres after overcoming multiple hurdles. Exploring the dark side of human nature and society forms the core of all his movies. Silence is special for Martin as elements like gore, moral decay, crime, sin and deceit that have haunted his other works finally comprise the central plot here. What’s more interesting is the cast that includes Adam Driver (Kylo Ren) and Liam Neeson (Qui-Gon Jinn) of the Star Wars saga in addition to the 2017 Oscar nominee Andrew Garfield. In sincere preparation for their roles, Andrew Garfield devoutly learned about the Jesuit faith whereas Adam Driver lost 51 pounds.
The director, who wanted to become a priest himself, makes films synonymous with gore, violence, corruption and moral decay. From the director of Hollywood classics like Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, The Wolf of Wall Street comes yet another sublime creation that looks at deeper questions about religion and its purpose. Inspired by a novel of the same name by Shusaku Endo which Martin read in 1989, Silence is a cinematic bliss for lovers of film aesthetics. It depicts, at length, the horrendous persecution of Christian missionaries and Kakuri Kirishtan in Japan under the Tokugawa shogunate.
The film, set in Nagasaki, begins with an unnerving sound of a dead night followed by a long quietness that gives you the sudden realization of the beauty of silence. The next scene greets you with barbaric visuals of scalding of priests who are further tormented by showers of hot water on their bodies for their refusal to renounce their faith. A Portuguese Jesuit missionary Cristovao Ferreira (Liam Neeson), unable to witness these horrors, succumbs to the government’s torture and supposedly commits apostasy. Ferreira’s two beloved pupils, Sebastiao Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) and Francisco Garupe (Adam Driver) refuse to believe the slander and decide to discover the truth themselves. With the help of a Japanese drunkard, who turns out to be a Christian of weak faith, they reach their destination. The priests are overwhelmed at the love and respect they get from hidden Christian communities who shelter them underground. But their joy doesn’t last long as the Inquisitor (Issei Ogata) begins his affliction on the wretched secret Catholics to wipe out their belief from Catholicism.
Faith consumes these villagers gradually and Sebastiao loses his only friend Garupe who sacrifices himself in the desperation to save the persecuted. Amidst the brutalities and gory visuals of the Japanese authority’s cruelty, like the one where the Samurai beheads a faithful, Rodrigues faces his inner demons and temptations. As he seeks an answer from God in the silence of his heart, we see him breaking bit by bit, unable to either save himself or his disciples. To speak about the culmination of the sufferings of the three Jesuits and the faithful will mean giving out spoliers.
Martin’s use of colors, tracking shots, long and magnificent overhead shots will certainly bring a smile to all those looking for technical superiority. The beautiful landscape of Taiwan coupled with the misty journeys aptly communicate the hostile Japanese environment of the 1600s. The cinematography gets an A-grade for its spectacular execution. Though the director could have used more of Adam Driver’s potential, Andrew Garfield shines throughout the movie as he is the film's primary focus. The Japanese actors Issei Ogata, Tadanobu Asano, Shin'ya Tsukamoto and Yosuke Kulbozuka were remarkable in their equally powerful performances.
The film gives a complex message that asks audiences to contemplate on the purpose of faith and the option of living one’s faith in secret to save the hundreds trampled upon. It also makes you think hard about the dream of paraiso (paradise) of the persecuted Christians, for which they bear grave suffering here on Earth. Similar questions will just linger on your mind long after the film is over.
Why You Should Watch This Movie:
If you are the one who looks closely at cinema’s aesthetics, then this will be a treat for your eyes. For others, a dip into your spiritual selves will do no harm. If these reasons do not excite you, then watch it to witness the historical persecution of the lovers of faith as this certainly needs more eyes and ears. And if nothing else appeals, watch it to get awed by Scorsese's cinematic genius.