“Silence" Is A Somber Lucid Dream Drenched In History

By Scott Kurland
Film: Silence
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver, Liam Nesson, Tadanobu Asano, Yosuke Kubozuka, Issei Ogata, and Ciaran Hinds
Rated R
Director: Martin Scorsese

Sometimes, waiting to make your dream project proves to be the most fruitful venture. For instance, James Cameron worked for years and years on “Avatar” until he could get it just right. Spielberg put his blood, sweat, and tears into “Schindler’s List” and won Best picture and director. Other times, that dream project never fully materializes, like Ed Wood’s “Plan 9 From Outer Space;” quite possibly one of the worst films ever made.  Sometimes a dream project becomes a laughable nightmare that gains cult status, like Tommy Wiseaus’ “The Room" (not to be confused with the Oscar winning feature from last year). I bring this up because this week’s film “Silence” has been Martin Scorsese’s labor of love for the last thirty years. Let’s find out how good it is shall we?

“Silence” is the story of two Jesuit priests, Father Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) and Father Garupe (Adam Driver), as they travel across Japan searching for their mentor Father Ferrira (Liam Nesson). Father Ferrira is accused by his order of committing apostasy and renouncing Christianity in exchange for Buddhism to avoid torture by the Japanese inquisition. Rodrigues and Garupe, now in foreign territory, stumble across small communities of converted Japanese Christian villagers who pray in secrecy. The deeper these two go, the more horror and torture they witness. They watch as both men and women are forced to denounce God and pray to Buddha. Will these men be caught and forced to denounce Jesus Christ and The Lord? Or will God break his “Silence” and save them?

This film went through many castings over the course of thirty years. The best casting in my opinion was Gael Garcia Bernal and Benicio Del Toro as Rodrigues and Garupe. If you’re going to make a movie about Spanish Jesuit priests, it seems only right to cast Spanish actors. Garfield and Driver are great actors and do fine here under Scorsese’s direction, but you never lose sight of the fact that you’re watching a British and American actor doing an accent. Authentic actors might have made the film seem more urgent. Nesson doesn’t even attempt to do an accent which is fine because it’s Liam Nesson. He’s about as Spanish as American cheese is cheese. What really sold me on the film is Garfield’s performance. He’s just fantastic as Rodrigues. Garfield is such an underrated actor and seeing him get films like this and “Hacksaw Ridge” really makes me happy.  Garfield’s performance is a combination of subtle religious belief,  self entitled honor, and blind faith. 

The two things that were under utilized for me were Driver and Nesson. Driver’s Garupe is such a rich and unique character, but we never get a full glimpse of his potential. As soon as we are able to connect to his partnership with Garfield’s Rodrigues, he’s gone. I know this is a three hour long movie, but I’d kill for an extra twenty minutes to get Garupe’s backstory. As for Nesson, his character is supposed to be a mystery. I would have loved for him to stay a mystery; only getting to see him in flashbacks or a brief cameo. I feel like we get too much Nesson and, at the same notion, we don’t get enough. Neesson, over the course of his career, has only been in two Scorsese films (this one and “Gangs of New York.”) and yet both times he’s played a priest. I know, weird right? Nesson is passable as Father Ferrira, but he still lacked a certain mystery that is needed for this role.

As I stated before, this film is Scorsese’s thirty year labor of love. Did it pay off? Well, the answer is...kind of. It’s a beautiful film and every frame looks like you’re walking through a lucid dream. However, I was still left with so many questions. How did these inquisitors find the Japanese Christians only based on one person’s word? I know Japan values honor, but if you don’t trust a single person, why take their word for it? Scorsese does his best to explain this in his screenplay, but there’s so many questions it left unanswered. 

“The Wolf Of Wall Street” feels like a latter-day Scorsese film, “Silence” feels like an old- school Scorsese film, going back to the days of “The Last Temptation of Christ.” “Silence” is at times dark and graphic. At other times, it’s slow paced and beautifully shot. But the one thing it never loses is the audience’s attention. Scorsese finds a way for us to stay invested in this class struggle epic.“Silence” is one of the most somber films I’ve seen in years, but it is also one the most gorgeous-looking films I’ve seen in years. I did enjoy seeing Scorsese’s opus, and I loved  seeing this story along with Garfield’s performance as it comes to life on the screen. If you aren’t afraid of a three-plus-hour running time, “Silence” is worth a viewing. 

scott kurlandComment