Almost 30 years in the making, Silence is most certainly Martin Scorsese’s passion project. When Shusaki Endo’s novel was presented to Scorsese in 1988 by Archbishop Paul Moore at a special screening for religious leaders for The Last Temptation of the Christ, he found it spoke to him personally and, with the recently reported news that he wasn’t paid a single penny from making this film, sets that statement further into stone.
Adapted by Scorsese from the 1966 award winning novel, Silence delves into the depths of the 17th century to tell the story of two Portuguese missionaries and their mission to Japan to find their beloved mentor and minister Father Christavao Ferreira, played by Liam Neeson, who is rumoured to have denounced his faith. Andrew Garfield plays Father Sebastian Rodriquez alongside an exceedingly gaunt Adam Driver as Father Francisco Garupe. As the pair hit the shores of Japan it becomes all too apparent that the ruling Samurai and their feudal lords are trying to eradicate Christianity amongst the people, forcing Christian Villagers into worshipping in secret. If found to be Christian the people were tortured into renouncing their beliefs or they would face a long and drawn out agonising death.
The villagers, who have been craving Christian leadership, cling to the two missionaries putting their own lives at risk, while the two Jesuit priests deliver sermons and listen to confession on a daily basis as the authorities close in by offering bribes for information that will lead to their capture. Each interrogation, especially amongst those who are believed to follow the Christian faith, can go from one extreme to another; some are simply made to step on or spit on a stone figure of Jesus whilst others are tortured for their Martyrdom by being strung up on crosses whilst submerged in the crashing waves of a ferocious rising sea.
Touching on an array of themes such as faith, doubt, weakness and the human condition and Father Rodriquez’ own comparison to Jesus within himself, it does feel like a constant hammer is pounding away at the head as the feudal lords relentlessly try to get Rodriquez to denounce his faith through tortuous mind games and gruesome physical abuse – which covers three-quarters of the film making its subject somewhat tediously monotonous. A story which is extremely one sided with no objective views, there is no doubt Scorsese’s expertly crafted masterpiece will nestle its way comfortably into the hearts of those who are devout to Christianity.
Some may cry that man of the moment Adam Driver only has a small part to play and argue he should have swapped places with Garfield. After losing what appears to be an unhealthy amount of weight for his part Driver isn’t present enough to fully flap his enormously talented wings. However, Garfield – who leads for the majority of the film - gives an exceptionally brilliant and sensitive performance, a career-defining portrayal of a heavily religious man who stands firm on his beliefs in the face of so much suffering on his behalf, a man who, inevitably, questions God’s silence when so many are suffering in his name.
Be prepared for a long haul flight as Silence is just under 3 hours long, its beautiful yet its brutal depiction of 17th century Japan has moments of complete paralysis on the brain. There are long periods of complete nothingness which distract making the mind wonder and even made this critic struggle to keep awake.