To quote the Bible from the book of Peter 5:10, “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm, and steadfast”. It may surprise you that acclaimed director Martin Scorsese wanted to become a priest before he settled on a filmmaking career. While that doesn’t say much about him now, it does show that the church was a big part of his life as a youth and makes you wonder about how he sees the world.
Martin Scorsese is the one filmmaker from the French New Wave era of moviemakers who has managed to remain consistency great. Even his lesser work like Shutter Island is still a very good movie is the least. Scorsese has put his two cents in every genre from family (Hugo), to gangster (Goodfellas), to biopics (The Aviator, The Wolf of Wall Street) and many more. His most controversial film came in the 1980’s when he made The Last Temptation of Christ, which was said to be his most personal (and is also a film I love). Silence is his next foray into religion and to holding onto ones belief.
In the fifteenth century, jurist priests Sebastiāo Rodrigues (played by Andrew Garfield) and Francisco Garupe (played by Adam Driver) receive word that their mentor Father Ferreira (played by Liam Neeson) has committed apostasy in Japan. Christianity has been outlawed in Japan and the Jurists have been trying to change that. Knowing their teacher wouldn’t do such an atrocity, ask and get permission to go and find Ferreira. Once they are introduced to Kichijiro, a Japanese fisherman who claims to renounce Christianity, Rodrigues and Garupe are taken to Japan via boat.
In several small villages, Rodrigues and Garupe see that the local Christian population has been driven underground, for the sentence is usually death. Both men ask, but few seem to know who Father Ferreira was. In the meantime, both priests do their best to help the Christians while remaining hidden from the Samurai army. At one point, Kichijiro betrays Rodrigues and has the priest captured. Rodrigues is told by “the inquisitor” that Japan has no use for the Catholic Doctrine and that Christian prisoners will continue to be tortured until he too commits apostasy. It is here where he faces a lot of questions about his faith, selflessness, and the nature of humanity.
Silence is a movie that Scorsese has wanted to make for decades, and I can honestly say that it was worth the wait. This is an example on how to make a great religious movie. Now only is it a story that is never boring, this truly pushes the audience as much as the priests are being pushed for their beliefs. It may be a long movie (nearly clocking in at three hours), it’s all intentional for the benefit of feeling just as isolated as out main character.
Coincidentally, this happens to be the second religious story for Andrew Garfield this year along with Hacksaw Ridge. However, this also proves that this young man may be one of the finest actors of our generation. All of his moments, from staring at himself in the water to his struggle to step on a Christian picture, all feel earned and never once feel phony.
It is beautifully shot and edited as all Scorsese movies are. Something about Silence makes it’s clearly large world feel so isolating. It really feels like that your going on a spiritual journey. How you come out in the end is up to you.
I’ll give this five pictures of Saint Peter out of five. Silence is a movie that while maybe not for everyone, is something that I implore every fan of film to check out, even if their not following a religion. This is more then holding onto spirituality; its about your principles and holding out for what you DO believe in. This’ll probably be too polarizing for the award season, but this is a work of art that needs to be seen at least once (preferably on the big screen). Silence will hang above you like a cloud for a while like I expect it to do for me.