Legendary filmmaker Martin Scorsese returns with his first film since 2013 with Silence, a film following two Portuguese Jesuit priests who enter Japan during a time of Christian persecution to find locate their mentor who is rumoured to have committed apostasy (denounced God). It is based on Shūsaku Endō’s 1966 novel.
This is clearly a very personal film for Scorsese as an opportunity for him to explore faith, something we’ve seen before in films such as The Last Temptation of Christ. And the film is at its most basic level about the priest Rodrigues, played by Andrew Garfield, and his struggle to keep his faith despite seeing difficult scenes unfolding around him, and not receiving any help from god.
Silence could be a film that really divides people. There will be those who find the film overly long, and quite boring, but some will definitely be singing its praises. For me, whilst there were certainly scenes that were a little unnecessarily long without much going on, a lot of the film is brilliantly directed and written. There are some scenes that are really difficult to watch, especially the moments where people are tortured. Scorsese, as you would expect from such a talented director, really makes these moments feel incredibly real, brutal, and tough to watch.
The work from cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto is amazing. Even from just the trailer it was the first thing that really struck me, and even more so in the film. It’s beautifully shot and in such a striking way, from those first moments in the overhead on the steps of the church, the cinematography is consistently breathtaking.
Andrew Garfield’s performance as Rodrigues is definitely another stand out aspect of the film. He’s in essentially every scene of the film, and so the weight of most of the film rests on his shoulders. And given that Silence is all about his emotional journey, Garfield absolutely produces the performance required to carry it. The supporting cast is good as well. Adam Driver, Liam Neeson, and the various Japanese actors all put in good supporting performances, particularly Issey Ogata as the head inquisitor.
There are a lot of brilliant aspects to Silence. Scorsese’s direction is fantastic, Garfield puts in an early contender for best performance of the year, and the cinematography work is just breathtaking. But the film was too long, and a little slow paced in places. Silence is certainly a film worth seeing, even if its not one of Scorsese’s better works.