Friday, January 13, 2017

"Silence" Speaks Pretty High Volumes

Martin Scorsese is the greatest director working today. He is one of the few directors working where no matter what film he does, I'm ready to buy a ticket. The fact I would see a 3 hour meditative film about religion because he did it is a huge testament to his drawing power and having seen the film, I can say it is a challenging yet rewarding film watching experience.

Silence is based on a novel by Shusaku Endo about a couple of 17th century Jesuit priests named Father Rodrigues and Father Garupe (Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver) who travel from Portugal to Japan to find their mentor Father Ferrera, played by Liam Neeson, who has abandoned his faith. As they try to find him, they attempt to spread their Christian faith in what is a rather unforgiving land with religious persecution being used on those who practice Christianity.

Religion is what plays a prominent role in the film's story and it also philosophically plays a part in the film's title. There is a scene where Father Rodrigues is trying to pray to God but asks "I pray but I am lost. Am I just praying to silence?" Do we get our answers from above by talking or from within our thoughts? In what ways do we prove our faith? Through physical, non-verbal acts or by verbally devoting our faith to those we worship? Those are the kind of questions the film asks us.

Not only that, but there are plenty of points where cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto lets the camera roll on the faces of the actors to demomstrate their conflicted faith with hardly any dialogue. There is plenty of expositional narration given but because it is heard rather sparsely throughout the picture, it is never overbearing and never feels unneeded.

As for the actors, they all do a very good job. Despite fluctuations with his Portuguese accent, Andrew Garfield does give a very raw and unflinching performance as Father Rodrigues, a priest who is constantly being pushed to the edge as he is questioning his faith and morality. Adam Driver and Liam Neeson are also effective in their supporting roles but a few standouts include a few of the Japanese actors.

One is Yosuke Kubozuka as Kijichiro, an alcoholic fisherman who abandons the Christian faith yet continuously pleas to Father Rodrigues for forgiveness. The other is Issei Ogata who plays Inuoe Masashige, a villainous inquisitor who pushes Rodrigues to abandon his faith through mental and physical torture. Even though Ogata plays a very sneery and sinister character, he is a very magnetic presence when he is on screen.

I will admit, the film is longer than it perhaps could've been. If it had been trimmed by about 20 to 25 minutes, it probably could've been perfect. But other than that, I can hardly find amy flaws with this picture.

Silence is a quiet and meditative yet ultimately rewarding film watching experience. Even if you don't undergo the physical pain they do, it'll still likely have you questioning your faith the way the characters do by the time the credits roll. Master Scorsese, you have done it again!!

Grade: A