The sense of the unknown that Scorsese creates, especially in the opening sequences, is not only majestic but it’s authoritative.
Silence is a war film; but the line that it treads isn’t a line separating good from evil. It’s a separation of people in a way that only religion can instigate. The belief within each character, that they are following the right path, taking agrievences into their own hands but often in a strong and aggressive manner. Silence is a stark reminder of how brutal human nature can be.
The story follows two Portuguese priests (Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver) across Japan as they search for they’re former mentor (Liam Neeson) who is said to have denounced his Christian faith. Silence often features violence and torture in a stark message, offering harrowing visuals on how buddhist leaders treated Christian followers in the 1600’s.
Focus throughout lies on Andrew Garfield’s Father Rodrigues and his performance projects an innocence and naivety, contrasting the vicious displays from many of the actors opposite him. At times Garfield shines so brightly, making it easy to forget the executions and torture happening and would continue to happen whether he was present or not. Yet this only extends the impact that the brutal moments in Rodrigues’ story have on the film.
Silence does run deeper than just a war of religion. It’s also a war on secrecy. A fight from Christianity to keep its presence in Japan a secret and the fight from Buddhism to remove that secrecy. Neither side is right and both project such an intolerance and an ignorance for the other, that there was never going to be a settled argument and director Martin Scorsese paints this struggle so vividly.
Not only does he use breathtaking visuals, but what Silence does brilliantly is to withold it’s vision. The sense of the unknown that Scorsese creates, especially in the opening sequences is not only majestic, but it’s authoritative. Much like the regime held across the Christians, Japan holds this against anyone on its land. Without this secrecy the film would sit as purely a 160 minute character piece on Garfield.
The arduous length does lead to moments perhaps extended further than they need to be, but is there any representation of length at this magnitude better than time itself? The film could have fit inside two hours, but it’s impossible to believe that Scorsese would have included anything he didn’t belive to be paramount.
Silence has its flaws, but what it does most brilliantly, is tell a story of a man who believes, and those who believe against him. It tells of his struggle and what drives him to continue. Scorsese manages to create a piece that two sides of a story that changes each time it drives deeper into the layers of Japanese history.
This is not just a film about faith. This is a film about passion, tolerance, and acceptance, but most of all, it expresses the importance of survival.