Reviewed: Silence (2016, Martin Scorsese)

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Director: Martin Scorsese

Starring: Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver, Liam Neeson, Ciarán Hinds

Release Date: 23rd December 2017

Studio: Paramount

Martin Scorsese’s latest film, Silence, is easily his most profound and personal, with an intimate study into the power of faith and its effect on the individual. A passion project of over two decades of planning, Scorsese has always remained modest on his capabilities as a director to bring the difficult novel to the big screen. Unlike his previous film, The Wolf of Wall Street, this latest production holds a different sentiment – of how ideologies can consume the individual and how this can be weaponised until the person loses all semblance of themselves. With no flashy dialogue, little action sequences and a difficult to grasp concept, Silence is a decent film with some captivating moments that struggles to pace itself consistently through its extended duration.

Silence is an intimate exploration of the power of faith within individuals and communities of people, told through the perspective of two devout christian priests as they travel to 17th Century Japan – with hopes of resurrecting the banned religion throughout the country. Also travelling to find their lost mentor (Liam Neeson), the two priests (Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver) encounter prejudice for their belief, testing their resolve and deconstructing their ideas. Allowed to play out at a slow pace, the film becomes powerful in what it depicts, with Scorsese allowing certain scenarios to play longer than is comfortable and his choice to use certain framings to bring a discomfort to the audience. These are the moments where the narrative takes risks, which pay off in some of the most rewarding sequences to feature in films. Although the slow pace works in establishing a pay off, the film struggles to alter its narrative speed and as such the less implied segments comes of dull or confusing with regard to the grand scheme of the narrative.

At its root, Silence is holds a powerful message of resilience to what you belief while recounting a difficult era of oppression in the East.

Throughout the entire duration of the film (a mighty 161 minutes), Andrew Garfield holds his own within the heavy themes presented through the narrative. Carrying the film with his depiction of Rodrigues the one time spider man highlights his natural talent as one of the best young actors within Hollywood. A character that is taken from the heights of his own beliefs to the broken nature of one who has lost his individuality, his performance cements the character as totally engrossing and entirely believable. Supported for the large part by Adam Driver, his character is given the most amount of progression and time to develop on screen. Driver can feel short changed due to the circumstances of his own particular narrative, with his worthy inclusion at the beginning switched to an almost there performance come the end of his particular arc. Not poorly acted, his Garupe is used more as a pawn in the development of Garfield’s journey.

Liam Neeson is heavily underused throughout the film, which surprises due to much of the films marketing based around his inclusion. When he does feature, he is enthralling to witness but is given very little to do. Instead the film largely consists of lesser known asian actors in supporting roles, which brings an authenticity to the film and a purpose to the narratives message.

Martin Scorsese’s passion project is beautifully rendered onscreen, with a direction that is expertly showcased through visually impressive vistas and stunning cinematography. With symbolism playing a large part in the aesthetics of the picture, the manner in which the scenes are framed brings a semblance wider than what is being recounted onscreen. Whether the sequence involves a close up or a wide angle, Scorsese’s direction is first and foremost catered around the narrative. This is then assured through the careful precision that is given to how the production looks and feels. In truth the film can be troubling to watch, but the director never seems to shy away from letting the film play out slowly.

With a deep and meaningful message that resonates through both the character arc of Garfield’s priest and the powerful themes that present themselves as an undercurrent throughout the whole picture, Silence is one of the most intriguing films to have been produced. However, with some slow moments in its development and a narrative that will not suit every demographic, Scorsese’s latest will capitulates the intimate nature of belief, but at the expense of some pacing issues. 

Plot – 3.5

Acting – 4

Direction – 5

Retrospect – 3

Overall – 4

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