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Silence – Movie Review

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Silence – Movie Review

Rating: A- (Great)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy Paramount Pictures

Even in Martin Scorsese’s more violent films, there is imagery that highlights the director’s faith. Next to The Last Temptation of Christ, Silence represents Scorsese’s biggest testing of his Christianity. The Jesuit priests who travel to Japan are continually tested and try hard not to question their divine belief in Christ. Even as the length grows bigger, there is still a compelling question Scorsese asks his characters. The history alone will prove to be of interest to a certain portion of the audience, as will the religious imagery and ideas. There is a lot to process, analyse and marvel at in Silence.

There is a brutality in Silence, but Scorsese only chooses certain moments to showcase any bloodshed. It’s instead through the ways the Japanese torture the Christians, both physically and through careful manipulation, that the audience becomes horrified at these actions. The long journey with which Andrew Garfield’s Rodrigues takes is strangely compelling because of the frequent obstacles Scorsese and his co-writer Jay Cocks throw at him. The stubbornness with which Rodriguez makes his decisions is admirable and yet there is a frequent need to push others away that persists. Scorsese could have merely made him an avatar for the audience, but Rodrigues is rather his own man trying to hold on to his own faith.

This is a film for the mind, but it’s also one for the eyes. Rodrigo Prieto’s cinematography is such a pivotal component of Scorsese’s vision. The locales are photographed with such beauty and the number of shots that could inspire paintings are plentiful. Scorsese uses the camera to not only include some powerful religious imagery, but also fulfill his inner Akira Kurosawa. The influential Japanese filmmaker’s portraits of 1600’s Japan is felt frequently throughout Silence. One shot with Rodrigues facing the inquisitor’s court will immediately call to mind Kurosawa’s own tribunal film Rashomon. One can easily imagine the famed director looking down proudly on what Scorsese has accomplished with Silence.

At two hours and forty minutes, there are a couple of points where the length is felt and it feels like Scorsese and his longtime editor Thelma Schoonmaker make shots linger just a touch too long on some sequences. However, these slow portions are eventually followed by another jolt in character development. It’s a credit to Scorsese and how he writes Rodrigues that when he tacks on another scene at the end, there’s a curiousity about this next step in his journey. Part of the credit also goes to Andrew Garfield’s quiet performance, full of reflection and thought and that makes his occasional outbursts feel even more heart wrenching and painful.

Silence is a film that will play very differently with the religious devout, who will appreciate the complex themes Martin Scorsese seeks to explore about faith. However, he doesn’t block anyone else from being invited into the experience. It’s a brutal film regardless of one’s religious ideas. The scale of the production is empowering and envelopes the audience in its wide vistas and harsh conditions in which its characters reside. While a couple of scenes could have been cut here and there to slightly improve the pacing, Silence is further proof of Scorsese’s skills as a filmmaker and one with the versatility to jump from gangster pictures to meditative historical dramas.


Stefan Ellison

Stefan Ellison