Release date: 1st January 2017/Watch the trailer here
It’s almost impossible to believe that Silence was directed by the man whose previous film was The Wolf of Wall Street, because these are two films that couldn’t be more different if they tried (aside from both sharing excessively long runtimes). Martin Scorsese’s latest epic is the story of two Jesuit priests who risk their lives by travelling to Japan in the seventeenth century to find their missing mentor, Father Ferreira (Liam Neeson). At the time, Christianity was outlawed in Japan and those found propagating or practising the religion were persecuted, with many being brutally executed. As one would expect given the heavy choice of subject matter, Silence is far from an easy watch. It is very, very long and very, very slow, and Scorsese doesn’t shy away from showing disturbing and drawn-out scenes of torture and violence.
His recreation of seventeenth century Japan, however, is thoroughly detailed and amazingly immersive. At the heart of it all is two understated performances from Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver as the Portuguese priests in search of Ferreira. The challenges, both mental and physical, that the actors must have gone through for their roles are staggering, and they are what transform Silence from a film that had the potential to be terribly boring into something that is surprisingly compelling. Garfield, in particular, delivers what is surely the best performance of his career so far as Father Rodrigues, whose staunch, unwavering faith is gradually permeated by doubt due to the atrocities he witnesses and the suffering he endures, all for the sake of a God who remains silent.
That’s not to say that Silence is a film without flaws. The length, at times, can’t help but feel like self-indulgence on Scorsese’s part. It certainly didn’t need a 160 minute runtime, because the pacing suffers as a result, weighed down by a sluggish middle section, meaning there are conversations that are stretched out to their limits and some instances that start to feel repetitive. For all of its imperfections, though, and whether it’s a film that you enjoyed or not – because truthfully, Silence is a film that’s very difficult to actually enjoy – it is undeniably one that is astonishingly ambitious, filmed through a camera that finds beauty even in the ugliest of moments.