Andrew Garfield, Liam Neeson, Adam Driver, Issei Ogata
FilmInk rates movies out of $20 — the score indicates the amount we believe a ticket to the movie to be worth
It’s rather less than the sum of its parts, but some of those parts are magnificent.
Silence has been a dream project of Martin Scorsese’s for many years, and now of course it’s come to fruition. Ahead of its other virtues, credit should be given for the uncompromising lack of conscious commerciality: a 2.5 hour movie about Jesuit priests in 17th-century Japan is not what you might call instant box office.
The central character is Father Sebastiao Rodriguez (Andrew Garfield), one of two young Portuguese padres who decide to go to Japan for two reasons: to try to convert the locals to Christianity, and to find one of their fellow priests who is said to have committed apostasy (abandonment and renunciation of his religion). The year is 1640, and the persecution of Christians in Japan is both widespread and hideously brutal. (There are some grisly depictions here of tortures and even executions befalling those who would not renounce the “true faith.”) It takes a while for this grim saga to become engrossing, partly because of the sheer arcane religiosity – which, unsurprisingly, Scorsese and his fellow screenwriter, Jay Cocks appear to admire.
Fortunately, though, there are other “givens” in Scorsese’s work besides Catholicism, and one of these is an exquisite visual sense. There are some hallucinatory/visionary images and a few very striking ones, from a crystalline starry night with seascape to cats wandering around a ruined and desolate village. And the story itself becomes considerably more interesting and morally and theologically complex, especially once Rodriguez is confronted by the sharp-witted and ruthless Inquisitor Inoue (Issei Ogata).
Silence is one of those films which has a powerful impact, but which also engenders a sneaking suspicion that much of it will fade rapidly from memory. It’s rather less than the sum of its parts, but some of those parts are magnificent. See it on the big screen.