Silence is often when we see clearly, fully able to observe what’s right in front of us. The film Silence follows that train of thought, offering an insight into how Christianity was dealt with when brought to Japan. Answer: not very well.
This has been a passion project for director Martin Scorsese for quite some time, and it shows with what’s on display here. Every shot feels like a painting slowly brushed together, left to linger on-screen until all the pieces are in place, finally dried against the canvas. The journey of Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver, the two playing Portuguese pupils of the lord with bad accents, on their hunt to find Father Ferreira (Liam Neeson) in Japan after rumours of his deflection to Buddhism isn’t a pretty one, but be it good or bad, there is never a moment which doesn’t look like fine cinematic art.
It’s an interesting insight into how religion is perceived when imported into other countries, and the torture on display is as brutal as it comes, with long drawn out shots showcasing Japanese Christians being hung to a cross and beaten by waves. or left to hang upside down as their blood drips downwards. This is when the silence often kicks in, leaving the viewer with no distractions other than the pain on display. My mother expected an action film with Liam Neeson saving the day, but please, don’t expect that.
Though there are things to speak up about amidst the silence. Andrew Garfield can play egotistical well, but sometimes he comes across as a grumpy hipster awaiting his next coffee rather than a man envisioning himself as Christ reborn, and the excellent Adam Driver walks off halfway through, only to briefly reappear for a single scene, albeit a moving one. When you have so much time to tell, and so much time was spent putting things together, you’d think someone would break the silence so these moments could be painted as well as the cinematic landscapes and imagery.
But stay silence and you’ll find faith in it all, for no religion is without flaws.