Director: Martin Scorsese
Writers: Jay Cocks (screenplay), Martin Scorsese (screenplay)
Stars: Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver, Liam Neeson
Review by Gilbert Seah
SILENCE. directed by Martin Scorsese and written by him and Jay Cocks is Scorsese’s labour of love. He was supposed to have made this film decades ago, but had to postpone the project many times owing to his obligation to direct other films. Finally, SILENCE is here, and despite all the hullabaloo, the film is surprisingly pristine and distant.
There is a lot of talk about the dedication and sacrifice the Jesuit priests went through. But the film never goes into the details of the source of this self-sacrifice. The only clue is the quoted scripture from Mark: 13, “Go ye into the world and preach the Gospel to the whole creation.” Apart from that, all the audience is given is lengthy talk of the priests insisting of going to Japan. There is one lengthy, unconvincing scene where priests Sebastião Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) and Francisco Garrpe (Adam Driver) argue with their superior (Ciaran Hinds) to be given permission to travel to Japan to locate their mentor Father Cristóvão Ferreira (Liam Neeson).
The film, based upon the 1966 novel of the same name by Shūsaku Endō is set in the 17th century. The two main characters are the Portuguese Jesuit priests — Sebastião Rodrigues and Francisco Garrpe. They face violence and persecution when they travel to Japan to locate Father Cristóvão Ferreira, who has committed apostasy after being tortured. The story is set in the time of Kakure Kirishitan (“Hidden Christians”) which followed the defeat of the Shimabara Rebellion (1637–1638) of Japanese Roman Catholics against the Tokugawa shogunate.
SILENCE contains many awkward scenes, the funniest is the one which involves the act of apostasy. Apostasy is the formal disaffiliation from, or abandonment or renunciation of a religion by a person. The term is also used is used by sociologists to mean renunciation and criticism of, or opposition to, a person’s former religion, in a technical sense and without pejorative connotation. In the film, Father Ferreira apostates and talks about it. It is a hard word to pronounce and in that scene Neeson blows the pronunciation. It is a wonder why Scorsese did not cut that scene out of the film.
Another is the homo-erotic hugging of the two priests played by Driver and Garfield before they depart. Their odd look – as if they know what the scene could indicate but totally ignore the fact – is priceless. But the first scene with the torture of the priests by the Japanese soldiers using leaking ladles is quite ridiculous. I am sure the Japanese could have devised more torturous and less cumbersome instruments.
The film is shot in both English and Japanese. As the priests were Portuguese, whenever the actors speak English with a weird accent that is supposed to be Portuguese, The English is supped to stand for Portuguese. Fortunately, Japanese is left as Japanese. But these pose problems when in one scene pre sits asks: “Do you speak my language?” in English which stands for Portuguese.
The film contains too many set-up conversational pieces and laborious inquisitions for its own good. The lengthy 160 minute running time does not help either. SILENCE ends up a long, laborious and boring affair.
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