'Silence' Artful Look into Past
Scorsese’s Passion Project a Hit
Martin Scorsese has proven to be a consistent filmmaking force over the years, having succeeded in multiple eras of cinema where other directors have lost touch with their audience.
But while consistency in his filmography reigns, the accessibility of his projects in recent years varies wildly.
It’s hard to think of a Scorsese movie that exemplifies this better than “Silence.”
The movie represents a long-gestating passion project for the director about Christian priests searching for their missing mentor in 1600s Japan, where the religion is not only outlawed but met with swift brutality.
It’s easy to say “Silence” has a straightforward premise; it certainly isn’t tough to follow, even when the seemingly intimate story occasionally lends itself to broad, epic strokes of storytelling.
Rather, it’s the underlying tale of conflicting religious and cultural ideologies that makes “Silence” one of Scorsese’s most profound works to date.
That the movie, clocking in at a little over two and a half hours, tells a story that is simultaneously self-contained and transcendent of its setting is a testimony to Scorsese’s script, which he worked on alongside Jay Cocks.
Scorsese’s seemingly lifelong interest in the project is absolutely on display here.
Those who can engage on an emotional, even spiritual, level might find themselves deep in thought at various points in the film, particularly at moments of discussion between Andrew Garfield’s Priest Rodrigues and the anti-Christian Inquisitor.
These intellectual clashes serve to show that there’s not really a traditional good guy and bad guy in “Silence,” just a difference in perspective.
Speaking of perspective, Rodrigo Preto conjures up imagery behind the camera that is nothing short of majestic, a visual contrast to the figurative nothingness suggested by the film’s title. In a year with many superbly-shot films, “Silence” demands a seat at the table.
Fog is a pervading element in the movie, acting as nature’s answer to the wisps of doubt that slowly creep into Rodrigues’ mind. And the use of Christian imagery at the most unexpected of moments is chilling, meant to make us feel the weight on Rodrigues’ shoulders.
Meanwhile, it’s silence itself that has the most noteworthy performance, a character in its own right. The virtual lack of any score in the film gives a certain amount of gravity to the narrative.
At times the technique makes “Silence” feel like a historical documentary (which, to an extent, it is, having basis in fact). Other times its authority is so pervasive that we hope for just a pin drop to break the tension. On that end, Scorsese delivers with the occasional, but extremely vivid, display of brutality.
The modern cinema is a place where most movies are rife with spectacle that is as easy to absorb as it is to forget. “Silence” instead is formidable in its resolve to remind us that the physical lack of cinematic bombast can be even louder, and certainly more thought provoking.
Scorsese is offering us an invitation to the table where identity and culture collide in constant conflict; whether that’s under the authority of a crucifix is up to us.