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Review: Silence

Silence
01.05.2017
7 10
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PLOT: Two 17th century Jesuit priests (Andrew Garfield & Adam Driver) travel to Japan to find their former mentor, a priest (Liam Neeson) who has apparently renounced his faith.

REVIEW: SILENCE is a film only Martin Scorsese could have made and, to read this history behind it, one he was compelled to make. A companion piece to his THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST, SILENCE, based on Shūsaku Endō’s novel, is another story of violently opposed faith, but not one of the hero’s martyrdom. His hero this time around, Andrew Garfield’s Sebastião Rodrigues, is willing to become a martyr for his faith – the conflict is whether he’ll allow the innocent Japanese Christians who follow him (in a time of severe religious persecution) to suffer the same fate.

silence andrew garfield

At two hours and forty minutes, SILENCE is a punishing film. While he’s made lengthier movies, this feels longer than the fast-paced THE WOLF OF WALL STREET (which clocked-in at three hours). Glacially paced, Scorsese doesn’t make it easy on his audience, to the extent that he doesn’t even give the audience the easy release of a musical score (Kim Allen & Kathryn Kluge’s compositions are played at a barely audible level). Even Scorsese’s most devoted fans (and I’m one) will find this a hard watch, but that’s likely just the way he wanted it.

Entertainment does not seem to be a priority for Scorsese here. He wants his audience to be troubled by what they’re watching and to ask themselves questions. It’s a hard film to review, given that there’s so much to chew on. Walking out of it last night, I was shaken and disturbed by what I had seen, and I couldn’t imagine submitting to it for a second viewing – but again, I think that’s exactly the reaction Scorsese wanted to provoke. A true master of the form, nothing about his work is accidental.

As usual, it’s impeccably made, with the location shooting in Taiwan dynamic despite being a stand-in for Japan. The cinematography by Rodrigo Prieto is often dazzling. You could choose any frame from the film and random and be dazzled by how perfectly composed it is. The performances are also exceptional, with Garfield once again impressing in his second faith-based role of the year. Evoking both compassion and stubbornness, his Rodrigues is the ideal tortured Scorsese hero, and Garfield never plays him as too noble or Christ-like. Rather, his martyr complex seems partly born of ego.

silence liam neeson

Adam Driver also impresses as the more impulsive of the two priests, bringing his signature, unconventional presence to the part. By contrast, Liam Neeson is mostly absent until the third act, but his full-on movie star dynamism proves essential, as his Father Ferreira is supposed to be someone who holds sway over his subordinates. You believe him in the part. The Japanese actors are uniformly great, with Yōsuke Kubozuka alternately amusing and enraging as the Judas-like guide, while Tadanobu Asano plays a suave interpreter for the Japanese court persecuting the Christians.

All that said, I’m not sure how to grade SILENCE, and this is a case where a number grade feels too simple a rating. It’s not a question of good or bad – SILENCE is a good film. Is it an entertaining one? Probably not. THE MISSION is a more traditionally entertaining exploration of a similar crisis of faith, and Scorsese’s own THE LAST TEMPATION OF CHRIST is far more stirring. Rather than aim for the heart, SILENCE aims for the head. Still, a part of me wishes Scorsese had made this an easier film to take in, and it’s one of the few ones from his canon that I won’t be in a rush to see again. It’s the type of film one submits to rather than watches, but if there’s any living filmmaker I’d submit to, it’s Scorsese.

Source: JoBlo.com

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