Originally published January 11, 2017
Silence is a 2016 epic historical drama film directed by Martin Scorsese and written by Jay Cocks and Scorsese, based upon the 1966 novel of the same name by Shūsaku Endō. The film stars Andrew Garfield as Sebastião Rodrigues, Adam Driver as Francisco Garupe, Liam Neeson as Father Cristóvão Ferreira, Tadanobu Asano as the Interpreter, and Ciarán Hinds appears briefly as Father Alessandro Valignano. The plot follows two 17th-century Jesuit priests who travel from Portugal to Japan to locate their missing mentor and spread Catholicism.
I love Scorsese flicks. I may be in the minority when I say The Age of Innocence is one of my favorite movies of his. When you sit down to a Scorsese flick, it will be highly emotional, magnify complicated relationships, and often suffer from a slow burn.
Silence follows this recipe. It was drawn out in some parts and sped up in other places. It was 2 hours and 41 minutes long. I probably would have shaved a few more minutes here and there. I enjoyed the use of sound in the movie.
The title works on many levels, although it’s almost too easy when you name your book and film about it. From the titles to the very end, there is a story being told in the silence. There’s power hiding inside.
I studied the history of Japan extensively as part of my study for my minor in History for undergrad. When we studied the expulsion of Christianity within the larger picture of the country’s history, it was a few quick pages and more like,
“and then the Japanese expelled the Christian gaijin from their country and closed their borders to foreigners for almost 300 years until the arrival of Commodore Perry.”
Silence highlights a critical point during the expulsion and gets up close and personal.
Garfield as Rodrigues was an excellent avatar for the audience to follow. I wish Driver was given more screen time. Neeson almost always plays mentors who are a bit screwy in the head (Qui-Gon Jinn and Ra’s al Ghul, come to mind), so truthfully, it was a bit hard to suspend my disbelief with that. But I did because he’s a fantastic actor.
What was fascinating to me is that the Japanese weren’t presented as a one-dimensional “villain.” The Inquisitor made it very clear that the shogunate studied Christianity thoroughly. They didn’t blind reject Christianity just because it was brought over by foreigners.
They studied their enemy, so to speak, and knew how to intelligently refute anything that Rodrigues tried to present as an argument. They believed themselves to be right, and that is a dangerous enemy to have.
My one overall observation is when my fellow audience would laugh at some parts that I didn’t find funny at all. I suppose it’s my own Catholic upbringing that didn’t laugh when Kichijiro kept asking Rodrigues to take his confession. That’s what made Kichijiro powerful to me. He kept doing the wrong thing left and right. But he knew that someone was looking out for him, and he need only ask.
Perhaps Scorsese (who co-wrote the screenplay) thought it could be used as a bit of brevity within the heavy material. If so, he won. But to me, it made me see a very humble Christian.
If you’re able, I definitely recommend watching the movie. As I said, it runs on the long side, but it captivated me from the beginning.
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