It’s been a near thirty-year journey for this passion project by one of the greatest filmmakers of all time; Martin Scorsese. His adaptation of the Japanese novel Silence started developing in the early 90s and was first going to go to camera more than a decade later, after wrapping Gangs Of New York. After some unforeseen delays, finally -after many cast changes and many different read-throughs of the book by Scorsese – the film reflects the long road of his career. It is, unsurprisingly, peppered with the nuances we know of a director who is a number one favorite in a lot of cinephiles’ eyes. Be warned though, fans who love Wolf Of Wall Street, Goodfellas and Casino are going to find Silence pretty inaccessible and will probably pan it pretty quickly.
Silence follows two Jesuit priests who head to Japan on a mission of religious conversion. Their less obvious mission is to track down the whereabouts of their mentor, Father Ferrera, a man who hasn’t been heard from in over two years. The pair of young priests, played by Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver, are headstrong and optimistic about their goals but are unaware of the violent backlash taking place. The leading officials in Japan have outlawed Catholicism and their method of enforcement is through the torture of the converted. Victims of this law are on display for the priests, who are pushed to their limits and are challenged to renounce their faith. In a test of resolve and survival, our main characters endure unfathomable horrors in an effort to bring a religion to people that may not fully understand the scope of it all.
Silence is a gorgeous thing to behold, Scorsese teaming again with Wolf Of Wall Street cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto, who provides some of the most compelling shots I have seen in the last year. The manipulation of fog in some shots and the use of the entire frame is pure genius, something to be dissected by film schools around the world. There are a couple scenes in particular, with Garfield’s character having a sort of religious and mental breakdown, that are truly astounding and will stand the test of time. As I stated before, it feels like Scorsese was building his entire career towards making Silence and his passion shines through. You can tell he’s been making this film over and over in his mind.
The film did start off a bit bumpy for me, especially pertaining to the introduction of Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver as they sit across from their superior, Father Valignano (Ciaran Hinds). The editing was odd and the weird delivery of lines from our two leads seemed incredibly off. Garfield improves exponentially as the film progress and sets this as his career defining performance, raising him now into the A-list of Hollywood. It’s been a damn good year for him and if you can take the two hour and forty-five minute run time of Silence, you will see how much he has grown as an actor. Silence is a celebration of a legendary director’s long journey and those that love him will see the beauty of his craft in this epic picture. 4/5