I saw this film over a week ago and it has taken me a while to formulate my thoughts about it. Martin Scorsese has said it took him over thirty years to get Silence made. In and out of court of material rights, changing leads from Daniel Day-Lewis to Liam Neeson, shooting problems, inhospitable weather were just a few of the hurdles Scorsese had to deal with. By my research, he shot this film in 2014 in only seventy-three days. Why it has been sitting on the shelf this long, is beyond me. I can only surmise it is because of the material and no one wanted to touch it, no matter who directed it. Regardless, Silence is a towering achievement about faith and how convicted we are about our faith. Can we maintain our faith while those around us are tortured for that faith? How far are you able to pursue your faith while people who are important to you are punished for your faith? Do I have what it takes to endure such atrocities and stay dedicated to my faith? These are the questions I mused about before writing this review.
These are perplexing questions and unlike Scorsese’s wretched film from 1987, The Last Temptation of Christ, which treated Christ’s sacrifice like it was a parlor trick. It was an immensely disrespectful film and from a man who was raised strictly Catholic. Scorsese is well versed in Scripture so why he chose to make a film as insulting as The Last Temptation of Christ is anyone’s guess. However, in Silence he has created an austerely respectful film about Christians and their persecution in the mid 1600’s in Feudalistic Japan. Inquisitors roam the Japanese countryside going from village to village looking for Christians. The Inquisitors torture the Believers until they recant or face certain death. Father’s Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) and Garupe (Adam Driver) set out for Japan when their mentor Father Ferreira (Liam Neeson) goes missing. While there, Rodrigues and Garupe run afoul of the local Inquistors. No closer to finding their mentor, they now are not even assured they will be found, themselves, let alone anyone else.
I will not divulge any more of the plot, suffice to say Silence is a somber and contemplative film with another stellar performance by Andrew Garfield. He received an Oscar for play Desmond Doss in Mel Gibson’s Hacksaw Ridge, but even more compelling is his performance in Silence. I was awestruck at how deeply moved I was by his acting in Silence. His character is fervent in his Christian faith but even he begins to waver in his faith at the absolute horror that he witnesses at the hands of the Japanese inquisitors. Unlike a lot of Scorsese’s films, Silence has virtually no violence, except for one graphic scene which, if you blink, you might miss it. Why Silence is Rated R is puzzling. There is no nudity or bad language ensuring an R rating. This is easily a PG-13 film. Yes, the material is thoughtfully deep but to somehow suggest that kids over the age of thirteen cannot handle it is doing them a disservice.
Is Silence a happy film for the whole family? No, not by a longshot. This is a film that should spark discussion and a dialogue about faith for people everywhere. Jay Cocks and Scorsese, himself penned the script based on Shusaku Endo’s novel. The “novel” is partially based on real people but the names were changed. Regardless, the script is intelligent and very respectful of the Christian faith which is not something I felt while watching The Last Temptation of Christ (do not confuse The Last Temptation of Christ with Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ). In Silence, Cocks and Scorcese tackle faith as something that is almost bred from within. We choose our faith but the seeds start from our inception. It grows as we grow and blossoms as we blossom as purveyors of our faith to others. This film really gets to the core of faith and digs at why we believe and how far we are willing to carry that faith. The film also implies correctly (Biblically so, as well) that faith in Man, rather than faith in Christ will be disappointing every time. I mean after all, we are only human.
As for my own Christian faith, I pray I never am forced to make decisions like the ones put to the Fathers in Silence. Silence is a powerfully moving film that really puts to the test, “how far are we willing to go to keep our faith?” But it does it with honorably with immense respect for the material and its players. Silence was released briefly last year at Oscar time and was eligible for contention. It was released in theaters on January 13, 2017, briefly and now has arrived on DVD and On Demand. Why the quick turnaround? Once again, I can only guess it is the material, which is a shame that studios seem to shy away from films that are respectful of the Christian faith. There are now a slew of decent Christian films being released to some much deserved success. Sadly, Silence has been lost in the shuffle. Fortunately, it is now out on DVD and On Demand for everyone to see.
Silence – ***** out of 5
Silence – Rated R for one scene of graphic violence
Silence – Run Time is 161 minutes
Silence is now available on DVD, On Demand and subscription services.