Review: Silence

Boy oh boy, have I been waiting to see this movie. Aside from the fact that I’ve enjoyed most of Martin Scorsese’s works, this is the first work of his that I’ve seen that is extremely religious in tone (I have not and do not plan on seeing The Last Temptation of Christ).

 

Now for some reason, it took a massively long time to show in the Midwest, so even though a majority of reviewers I follow have already reviewed it weeks ago, I am now finally getting to see this movie.

 

 

From what I’ve heard, this was a passion project for Scorsese. The man is apparently a devout catholic, which may explain why his movies about morally bankrupt gangsters always seem to have some sort of message about moral consequences (one of the many reasons I enjoy his movies).

The movie itself is quite good. The acting in it is just fine for the most part, but there are bits and pieces of performances that are absolutely heartbreaking.

Andrew Garfield has the most opportunities to shine in this movie, and he does good with everything he’s given. Adam Driver, Liam Neeson, and everyone else does good in their roles. There isn’t a role that completely blew me away, but there isn’t a single bad performance either.

 

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One of my favorite things about this movie is how well it’s shot. It’s not necessarily the camerawork that’s unique and complex, but so much of the imagery is filled with beauty and purpose. Scorsese is rather exceptional at setting tone in his movies.

 

 

Quite a bit of this movie is grueling and hard to watch. Much of the focus in this movie is the Japanese government persecuting and exterminating the Catholic faith out of their country. It is supposedly historically accurate (it’s based on a book written by a Japanese Catholic, and although the story is fictional, he relays many of his experiences through it), and if that’s the case, then the Japanese were extremely cruel in their efforts to expunge Catholicism. Many of the scenes involve torture and emotional extortion.

The movie seems to place a contrast between the faith of the Japanese Christians versus the faith of the Christians sent to proselytize to them. Though the faith of the European Christians is sturdy, they seem to point to it being not as hopeful or unconditional as the Japanese. Whether or not this contrast was intentional or not, I don’t know.

 

 

But at the very end of the movie, I was struggling to figure out what was the whole point of what I just watched. As a Christian myself, I was trying to put the pieces together as to what I was suppose to feel…

… Now I’m going to attempt to talk about these feelings if anyone actually wants to read them. If you don’t want to read it, just skip to the final paragraph.

 

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<SPOILER>

So the second half of the movie is how Rodrigues (Garfield) gets captured by the Japanese authorities and handed over to be manipulated into apostatizing. Rodrigues clutches onto his faith in Jesus and bears against all sorts of manipulation.

Now they reveal in the movie that instead of torturing the priests of the faith, the officials decided that it was much more effective to torture the poor Japanese converts while simultaneously guilting the priests into submission. If the priests do not concede, the torture victims either become prolonged in their suffering, or they get slaughtered. This is all new to me, because films never really portray religious persecution (unless it’s the religious people doing the persecuting), and any movie that the Christian movie industry has made about religious persecution is done in an extremely insincere way…

… but I was wondering if there would ever be any point in watching all of these people be eviscerated in such a way.

 

Did the movie send a message about how faith in Jesus strengthens your resolve? Not really. Aside from occasionally being shaky in his faith, Rodrigues often encourages Japanese converts to apostate if they ever get captured.

Does it really send any sort of positive message about Christianity in general? Not really. Rodrigues eventually does apostate after Ferreira (Liam Neeson) joins in and pressures him to while the Japanese government brutally tortures six converts at the same time. Rodrigues and Ferreira then spend the rest of the movie pointing out religious paraphernalia to the officials so that the government can expunge Christianity out even more.

 

One wonders how effective Rodrigues’s faith really was. Full disclosure: I spent about two years as a Christian ministry major, and I spent some of that time studying Christian martyrdom. The vast majority of instances of persecution are the martyrs meeting their death as they continue to praise God.

Of course, I know this is a movie, and this is Hollywood, and they rarely get Christianity right (then again… lots of Christians don’t get Christianity right either…), but the primary reason I’m asking all of these questions is because I’m not quite sure what I was supposed to take away from this movie.

 

The first half is Andrew Garfield’s journey through supporting the believers in Japan (most of which meet their demise because they helped him), and then the next half, Garfield is forced to watch these people get massacred in front of him, and then finally coerced into giving up his faith, and then works to help the Japanese government expel the faith even further.

You’ll forgive me if I don’t see much of a point.

The final scene does seem to point to Garfield never truly giving up his faith in Jesus, but if that was really the case, would it not have been better for him to become a martyr for Jesus and allowing these people to die for their faith and be with Jesus? That is, after all, a thing about Christianity…

 

Really, the only thing you’ll get out of this religiously is that you can get a taste of what religious persecution really looked like back then (and is still happening in a few countries).

 

</SPOILER>

 

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Anyway, Silence is a very well made movie with some good performances and a very  depressing tone throughout. I wish I could recommend this movie more, but I just can’t seem to find the point of this film. It’s not enriching, encouraging, or insightful. And considering much of the movie is just people getting tortured, I was hoping there would be some sort of point to it all.

Perhaps this movie might merit a second viewing now that I know what to expect from this film.

 

If you like seeing artistically made cinema, then I would recommend it. But as the overall story goes, I’m still trying to figure out why exactly this is a story worth witnessing. All I can say that at least it was extremely well made, and I’m giving this movie a 7 out of 10.

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