Martin Scorsese’s latest passion project is a beautiful, immersive meditation on the power of faith.
Director: Martin Scorsese
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver, Issei Ogata, Liam Neeson
Release Date: 23rd December, 2016 (US) | 1st January, 2017 (UK)
“I pray, but I am lost…“
Faith is a fascinating concept. More often than not, it tends to be associated with religion, as it is in Martin Scorsese’s Silence, but it’s more effectively defined as “the absolute trust or confidence in someone or something”. That could be a person, a promise, or, indeed, the presence of a divine power, like God. I’m not religious myself, and thus remained a little sceptical about how Scorsese’s latest film would resonate with me. I soon learned that it’s less concerned with the specifics of a religion like Christianity as it is about asking a more ubiquitous question: what happens when our faith is tested?
Silence sees two Jesuit priests (brilliantly portrayed by Andrew Garfield & Adam Driver) travel to Japan to locate one of their own and attempt to renew the spread of Christianity within Japanese culture. Driven by nothing but their faith, they face persecution, torture and even death at the hands of a regime unwilling to accept their conflicting ideology. Scorsese doesn’t dissect or compare the merits of one religion or another through this conflict, but rather uses it as a means to examine the power of faith under distress – how it can fuel a man’s resilience and how its absence can ultimately break his spirit.
“The moment you set foot in that country, you step into high danger.”
What follows is an incredibly powerful spiritual journey, characterised by moments of pure elation and heartbreaking sorrow. Scorsese drags the audience along a beautifully realised nightmare, full of shocking imagery that gnaws deep and leaves an indelible mark on your soul. The production design is sublime, the locations are glorious, and the care and attention given by his crew to recreating this harsh, unforgiving world is unparalleled by any other Scorsese feature. It’s a truly immersive visual experience that effortlessly transports you back to seventeenth century Japan.
And it does so in style too. We’ve seen a lot of incredible cinematography in 2016, but no DP rivalled what Rodrigo Prieto was able to do in constructing the visual look of this film. This world is cruel, but it’s also uncommonly enchanting. The dull, muted colours carry a sombre, heavy weight to them, and yet the images they combine together to produce are gorgeous. It all adds to the magnificent atmosphere Scorsese creates, and solidifies Silence‘s status as his most visually stunning film to date.
Clocking in at 161-minutes, Silence is long, and the final fifteen minutes start to reflect that. The film winds down after a throughly captivating climactic scene, taking an unconventional and somewhat rushed approach to wrapping up its tale. You could argue it would’ve been improved by an even longer running time – but you risk turning this odyssey into a slog. Overall, Silence is a profoundly beautiful piece of cinema. It showcases the maestro as a uniquely gifted filmmaker, capable of telling a meaningful story in any genre, and able to leave a lasting impact on just about anyone in his audience.