2017 – USA, Taiwan, Mexio
Director: Martin Scorsese
Starring: Liam Neeson, Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver
Words: Christian Abbott
It all began in 1966, when Martin Scorsese first read a novel of historical fiction by Japanese author Shūsaku Endō, from which this film is adapted. A story of two Jesuit Priests, Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) and Garupe (Adam Driver), journeying to Japan to seek their former mentor, Father Ferreira (Liam Neeson), at a time when Christianity was outlawed and its followers persecuted. Writing the script began just over two decades later and with it a similar journey – a deeply personal, spiritual exploration of a man’s faith, or as it were, all men’s faith.
Perhaps there has never been a more apt title – Silence, the emptiness, the longing, and the feeling of needing to grasp something, anything. Silence binds this work, it is comforting and deafening. There is many a time during the epic quest into the unknown when silence is used to reflect upon things, the intimacy it can provide when confronted with immeasurable torment. This of course is something which breaks it, moments of extended, brutal violence that are shocking but never gratuitous. These are moments which are used sparingly and to great effect. There are many expository shots of landscapes harsh and beautiful, untouched that clash against the misery of man. One such moment is during a scene set on a rocky, ocean attacked beach. Christian men are crucified and drowned slowly by the incoming tide. The moment is unforgiving – men, women and children watch on without uttering a word, faithful until the end. The only thing breaking the silence is the voice-over narration from Rodrigues whom is lamenting the needless murder of these men, asking why the faithful should suffer. Rodrigues never stops questioning because he never receives an answer. Only silence.
This is just one of many beautiful and devastating moments in one massive work of dedication. It’s a challenging yet rewarding experience. It cuts deep into the questions and frustrations we all go through, religious or not. This has been described as Scorsese’s most personal film to date, which seems like an obvious statement. It’s a work that can only come from a personal, singular vision – one that has proven to not win over everyone, yet that doesn’t seem the point. It’s a film we should struggle with, talk about and challenge ourselves with; after all, works like this come so rarely.