Martin Scorsese is most known for his gritty portrayals of the American underworld. But something that has often come up in his career is references to his Catholicism. This comes to life in Silence, the story of two seventeen century Catholic Missionaries who go to Japan to find their missing mentor. There are reports he has apostatized, which the two young men reject. They see it as impossible that the man that trained them in faith would reject that same faith himself.
They get help entering Japan from a tormented soul who turns is a Christian who denied his faith to save his life, while the rest of his village refused to renounce and were burned alive. He introduces them to Japanese Christians, which begins their harrowing experience. The film focuses heavily on Father Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) trying to hold on to his faith as he is tormented by the Inquisitor who is dedicated to convincing Rodrigues to renounce his faith and convictions.
What makes this story so harrowing is the brutality of the torture. For Rodrigues, it is entirely psychological. The Inquisitor uses the suffering of others to try and drive the wedge between Rodrigues and his Christ.
Silence is a powerful and tremendous film. The sound design largely eschews music, with the exceptions of Christians singing and music played by the Inquisitor’s people. Otherwise, it is the sounds of nature that envelope the viewer’s ears.
Garfield and Driver are compelling in their performances, and of course Liam Neeson brings his trademark calm as the missing Ferreira. Issei Ogata is strangely both cruelly wicked and almost like a kindly grandparent. It is a testament to his performance that I could not totally hate the character. Yôsuke Kubozuka role as the troubled Kichijiro is such a frustrating and heartbreaking performance. Tadanobu Asano’s Interpreter is one who almost can convince you that the choice to apostatize is the only right choice. You almost believe his pleading with Rodrigues is out of heartfelt sympathy to save lives.
Scorsese’s Silence is a gut wrenching exploration of faith in the face of tribulation.
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