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‘Silence’ (review)

Produced by Barbara De Fina, Randall Emmett,
Vittorio Cecchi Gori, Emma Tillinger Koskoff,
Gaston Pavlovich, Martin Scorsese, Irwin Winkler
Screenplay by Jay Cocks, Martin Scorsese
Based on Silence by Shūsaku Endō
Directed by Martin Scorsese
Starring Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver,
Tadanobu Asano, Ciarán Hinds, Liam Neeson

 

Silence is based on the award-winning 1966 novel by Shusaku Endo and is the story of two 17th Century Jesuit Priests who travel to Japan on a mission to search for their mentor, Jesuit Superior, Father Ferreira, whom is said to have lost his faith and apostatized.

Set during the era of Kakase Kirishitan or “hidden Christians” any Japanese found to be Christian by the Inquisitor of Japan would be tortured and killed.

This long awaited film adaptation by Academy Award winning director, Martin Scorsese is a triumph of filmmaking. Beautiful, and harrowing, both the story of the two priests looking for answers and questioning their own faith, as well as the story of the Japanese peasants who are trying to find solace and peace in a religion that is expressly forbidden, are equally hard to watch and riveting.

I found myself having a hard time relating to the Jesuits, deftly played by Andrew Garfield (Hacksaw Ridge) and Adam Driver (Star Wars: The Force Awakens). Their mission is to find their mentor Father Ferreira subtly played by Liam Neeson (Taken), but also to keep converting Buddhist Japanese Peasants to Christianity. This is a sore sticking point for me. Once a Baptist myself, I find myself both understanding where they are coming from but not wanting to abide it.

What Scorsese has created in Silence is almost too perfect a film about the pros and cons of religion. I could spend a year talking about all the crap it brought up for me while watching it and never touch the surface of the films making at all. So suffice it to say it will definitely make you think. No matter what side of the religion debate you stand on.

As a film, Scorsese has dipped into his deep, dark well of film knowledge and made one of the best Kurosawa film since the master himself passed in 1998. Mixed two parts Kurasowa one part Bergman, Silence is 100% Scorsese and he is right back on top of his game. It is nice to see him change gears from the kinetic and frenzied style of The Wolf Of Wall Street (which I also reviewed almost exactly 3 years ago) to the methodical and almost zen-like film making of Silence.

Bringing Endo’s novel to screen, Scorsese and frequent writing partner, Jay Cocks have written an equally spiritual and tense film that does its source material justice. Scorsese also brought in long time collaborators, Academy Award Winning Dante Ferretti as both production and costume designer and his The Wolf Of Wall Street cinematographer, the Oscar nominated Rodrigo Prieto.

Scorsese has also cast a plethora of truly amazing supporting rolls with some of Japan’s best actors, actresses and directors. Stand out performances include but are not limited to, Issey Ogata (The Sun) as the elderly yet feared, Inquisitor, Inoue. Tadanobu Asano (Thor, Ichi The Killer) as the sly yet forceful Interpreter. Up and coming actor, Yosuke Kubozuka as the weak willed, Kichijiro. Even highly respected actor/director Shinya Tsukamoto (Tetsuo: Iron Man) was cast as Mokichi, as the devout village leader.

Silence will not be for everyone. Whether it be it’s daunting length of just under 3 hours, it’s very poignant yet controversial subject matter, or its methodical and slowly paced story, one thing is sure, who it IS for is the lover of amazing cinema. It may not be a film I will want to revisit in the near or even distant future but I am glad to have seen it and Martin Scorsese continues to be my favorite living director.

 

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