Silence (2017) – Review

If anyone had been expecting Martin Scorsese’s follow-up to The Wolf Of Wall Street to be something of a similar ilk, they’d be in for one numbing dose of reality. This is not the rambunctious, gangstery filmmaking we generally associate with Scorsese, but the slow-burning, drawn-out, reflective type which resulted in films like Kundun and The Last Temptation of Christ. The succinct title itself alludes not only to the apparent silence of God during two Jesuit priests’ treacherous journey through an anti-Christian, 16th century Japan, but to the deafeningly quiet nature of the picture.

Adapted from the 1966 novel by Shusaku Endo, Silence is the story of two Portuguese priests (Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver) who travel to Japan in search of their mentor, Father Ferreira (Liam Neeson), refusing to believe the rumors that he has apostatized – and, being that it’s a country where Christianity has been outlawed and priests are being tortured and executed, their presence is unwelcome and their journey incredibly dangerous. As one of Scorsese’s true passion projects, the film has been a long time in the making, with several years and a lot of hard work finally resulting in getting the thing onto the big screen. But has this devotion – perhaps even this faith – of his been really worth the effort? Is Silence really the masterpiece some are claiming? That, I’m afraid, is a question without a simple answer.

In many ways, Silence is indeed a breathtaking piece of work. The visual beauty of it, for one; the way Scorsese moves his camera around these majestic far-East landscapes, provocative when he needs to be, reserved and inconspicuous when he doesn’t, is absolutely something to behold. In fact, the whole thing feels rather old-fashioned, but in a charming way rather than an outdated one. Like all of Scorsese’s films, there’s such a tangible love of cinema lacing each painting-esque frame, and really it’s the kind of film which reminds us (if we even need reminding) how unnecessary gimmicks like 3D and seat-shuddering 4DX are to give us a more “immersive” cinematic experience. This, right here, is what film is all about. And it’s beautiful.

It’s certainly a contemplative piece of work, too. There are times when the film appears to be coming as a bit preachy, yet there’s always the argument that what it’s actually doing is asking questions about what faith and religion means and how it drives people in the way that it does. Because of this ambiguity, I wasn’t entirely sure how I was supposed to be feeling by the end credits, but I was asking myself a lot of questions. The problem is, I’m doubtful I’ll ever be going back to it as I’m just not sure what could be gained from repeat viewings – and at 2 hours 40 minutes it’s long, occasionally baggy film. While each frame is crafted with love, not enough of that love is transferred to the audience so it often feels like a film that loves telling its story but forgets people are actually watching it.


Verdict:

Silence isn’t a perfect film, nor is it Scorsese’s best work – but it does feel like one of his more personal pieces, and it’s undoubtedly impressive and thoughtful filmmaking anchored by a terrific central performance. Ultimately there’s enough in here to make it worth your while, I’m just doubtful you’ll feel an urge to revisit any time soon.

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

1 Comment

  • HACKSAW RIDGE (2017) - REVIEW - Lights Overhead February 7, 2017 at 9:43 pm:

    […] Japan fueled only by his faith (the other film, of course, being Martin Scorsese’s Silence). At least I assume it’s a coincidence – perhaps Garfield planned it, but the […]

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