Martin Scorsese's newest film is a thought-provoking depiction of faith, spirituality, and the power of religion
Silence stars Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver, and Liam Neeson and is based on the 1966 novel of the same name. Martin Scorsese considers the film to be a passion project that has been in development for over 25 years.
Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver play two Portuguese Jesuit priests: Father Sebastiao Rodrigues and Father Francisco Garupe, respectively. They find out that their mentor, Father Cristovao Ferreira (Neeson), was tortured and renounced his faith. Ferreira is now presumed to be missing somewhere in Japan. Rodrigues and Garupe set off for Japan in hopes of finding him. The two arrive to find small, underground groups of Japanese Christians, and administer many of the sacred sacraments to them. It's not long until Japanese samurai come in search of suspected Christians, intent on making the faithful apostasize or face persecution. Rodrigues and Garupe finds themselves in great danger alongside the Japanese Christians that they have befriended.
I know that faith-based films receive a lot of heat. The majority go for the shove-it-down-your throat approach that easily sicken the unfaithful and sometimes even those within the faith circle. Considering that Silence is brimming with Christian ideas and imagery, one might think that the target audience is only the most devoted of monotheistic religions. There is frequent discussion of the one God and what his intentions might be for us as a human race. Martin Scorsese doesn't necessarily challenge the faith. Rather, he makes us question the very abstract concept of faith. What exactly is it? Why do we have it? What makes it special to some and not others? Why even be a Christian?
There is irony in Silence, mainly because of who is directing it. It's a man who has developed a reputation for directing testosterone-filled, not-exactly-Christian gangster films such as Goodfellas and The Departed, as well as the excessively excess, America in a nutshell, Wolf of Wall Street, which is almost an exact opposite of Silence. Many of Scorsese's previous installments froth at the mouth with brutal violence and f-bombs, and they make Silence look heavily restrained. But maybe it's important that Silence is restrained. Bloody violence (with the exception of a few decapitations), profanity, and hardcore sex material are all tuned out. There are no glaring distractions. It's an underlying hint at what is involved in faith: removing distractions, asking the right questions, and being in the moment.
- How thought-provoking the film is. Silence can be difficult to watch, not allowing us to be comfortable with what we think we've always known about faith and spirituality. It dares us to question ourselves, and does not allow easy answers. Do we simply believe that these Japanese samurai merely look down on Christianity? One of the Japanese men says, "The price for your glory is their suffering." Are Christians not able to find grace and absolution in their faith unless there is suffering and oppression? This leads to a more philosophical question of how can there be a good without an evil?
We're not receiving a lecture on what defines a good Christian from a bad Christian. Scorsese wants us to think. He wants us to second-guess. He's pushing faith followers to be more mindful and constructive. We have to ask questions to do so.
- Scorsese put his heart into this film, and it's easily seen through his always excellent direction. I keep drawing a blank when it comes to finding a significant low point. One minor complaint of mine is that the union that is Garfield and Driver dissipates as the film wears on. When the two arrive in Japan, they hear confession, celebrate Mass, and distribute the Eucharist together. But once the story kicks into high gear, Garfield becomes the man of the show, and Driver is thrown to the sidelines. In a movie that features Kylo Ren, Qui-Gon Jinn, and the Amazing Spiderman, I guess I can only ask for so much....
Silence is a film that can be viewed and appreciated by any atheist, agnostic, or devout Christian. Ideas of faith and spirituality that are normally susceptible to preach-iness are masterfully conveyed through questioning. The 161 minute run-time can be difficult to endure, but Scorsese doesn't waste a single frame. It's especially remarkable to consider how thought-provoking a film can be when it contains little violence and few unnerving obscenities.
Recommend? Yes, regardless if you're religious/spiritual or not
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