Martin Scorsese’s SILENCE is a challenging film about the struggle of faith through relentless punishment. Sympathizing with its victims without fully forcing an opinion or answer, SILENCE is a beautiful looking film that presents the cruel execution and extermination of Christianity and causes the viewer to reflect on what they would do in the same situation.
SILENCE tells the story of two 17th-century Jesuit priests, Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) and Garrpe (Adam Driver). Traveling from Portugal to Japan where Christianity is outlawed, they hope to locate their missing mentor (Liam Neeson) while spreading Catholicism to those in hiding. The punishment for preaching or practicing their faith is not only punishable by death but also by unimaginable torturous acts.
With the help of another strong performance from Garfield, the viewer is taken on the journey through Rodrigues as he faces the challenge of ministering to people that he is putting into danger. His thoughts are narrated through journaling and is constantly battling to understand how the people have such strong faith and are still made to suffer so much. His own journey of hiding and surviving in a language and wilderness that he does not yet fully understand is one of hardship, loss, and incredible endurance of faith.
The story lends itself to biblical parallels, more specifically dealing with the twelve disciples and their interaction with Christ as he was put to the cross. The betrayal of Judas, Peter’s thrice denial, and the doubts of Thomas are just a few of the examples. Even the visuals of the devil’s serpent signifies a betrayal at a key moment.
Long time cinematographer (ARGO, BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN) and previous Scorsese collaborator (THE WOLF OF WALL STREET), Rodrigo Prieto, achieves possibly his best work. Utilizing breath-taking scenery and capturing confined spaces, the visuals are both spectacular and horrifying.
Director Martin Scorsese has apparently had this passion project on his mind for over 25 years. Based on the acclaimed novel by Shusaku Endo, Scorsese penned the screenplay with Jay Cocks. The passion behind the film is evident, which means the film has a personal aspect that may not be as personal to its viewers. I would be curious to know Scorsese’s own thoughts about the message, but his non-biased attempt is both the appeal and perhaps downfall of the film. Not all audiences will respond the same way and Scorsese’s care for the story might be lost on those who don’t share the same intrigue on the subject or understand the internal struggles of those who prioritize faith at the forefront of their lives. Likewise the long run-time of 161 minutes will likely feel lengthened or shortened depending on your view of these subjects.
As a man of faith, I found the film very moving and captivating, yet still sometimes perplexing. Not being Catholic, my frustration was trying to understand some of the specific doctrine or rituals that the missionaries felt were necessary to express their faith and love for Christ. As any decent human, my heart aches to see anyone put to such extreme brutality. As a Christian, the suffering these people took for simply having a different belief, let alone who share my specific belief in Christ as their Savior, took on a more personal understanding.
SILENCE tells the story of the persecution of Catholicism in Japan and the thousands killed in the name of Jesus through one priest’s eyes as he hides in secret and is eventually imprisoned. Blurring the line of the right to sacrifice one’s self for his beliefs and sacrificing others, SILENCE challenges the internal struggles of keeping one’s faith under all circumstances.