Tuesday, January 02, 2018
Silence (2016 film)
Based on the novel by Shusaku Endo, Silence is the story of two Jesuit priests who travel from Macau to Japan to find their mentor who had renounced his faith in his attempt to spread Christianity in 17th Century Japan. Directed by Martin Scorsese and screenplay by Scorsese and Jay Cocks, the film is the third film in an unofficial trilogy of films exploring the ideas of faith that Scorsese had done with The Last Temptation of Christ and Kundun where two young men travel to a world that is isolated from everyone as it showcases two men trying to hold on to their ideals at a time when anything foreign in Japan is forbidden. Starring Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver, Tadanobu Asano, Ciaran Hinds, and Liam Neeson. Silence is a ravishing yet haunting film from Martin Scorsese.
Set during a period in Japan where Christianity is forbidden in the country due to the belief that it would corrupt its ideals, the film revolves around two Jesuit priests from St. Paul’s College in Macau who travel to the isolated country where their mentor had been in the country in an attempt to spread the ideas of Christianity to the Japanese. Yet, they would arrive into a country where the practice of Christianity is kept in secret as it would lead to this revelation about what Japan is trying to do to suppress ideas outside of Japan forcing these two young priests to face major challenges. The film’s screenplay by Martin Scorsese and Jay Cocks opens with images of torture towards not just these Jesuits priests but also followers where Father Cristovao Ferreira (Liam Neeson) watches in despair as he is unable to do anything to help those being tortured. It would lead to this main narrative where Father Ferreira’s pupils in Father Sebastiao Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) and Father Francisco Garupe (Adam Driver) travel to Japan to find their mentor and confirm these rumors that he had committed apostasy.
The film’s first act is about Rodrigues and Garupe learning about their mentor in Japan and their desire to find him knowing that Japan is not easy to enter as they’re aided by a troubled alcoholic guide in Kichijiro (Yosuke Kubozuka) who was a former Christian as he is also trying to seek some salvation. There, they would meet several villagers who practice Christianity in complete secrecy as some would be caught by samurai working for a mysterious inquisitor. The second act has Rodrigues and Garupe take on different paths to help Japanese Christians as much of the film’s narrative is told through the perspective of the former who would endure immense challenges of faith. Throughout the course of the film, Rodrigues would ponder these ideas of faith as well as why there’s a number of high officials of the Japanese consulate that are resistant to Christianity as there are a lot of fallacies to the idea of Christianity. Even as Rodrigues would have to see followers be tortured to death as some would apostatize but others would refuse leading to their own death.
The character of Kichijiro is someone who would continuously stay alive knowing he’s caused trouble as he constantly goes to Rodrigues to confess as it would play into some of the things Rodrigues would see. He would try to appeal to a revered governor in Inoue Masashige (Issey Ogata) who is a unique individual that has this slimy persona as a man that mocks the idea of Christianity yet is also willing to listen to what Rodrigues has to say. The film’s third act is about what has happened to Ferreira and the challenge that Rodrigues faces. Especially as Rodrigues is forced to face his own faults in his devotion as well as what his followers were willing to do to maintain the idea of Christianity.
Scorsese’s direction is definitely rapturous for capturing a moment in time that was intense as far as how Japan was willing to protect itself from outside forces and isolating itself from the rest of the world. Shot mainly in Taiwan, the film has Scorsese going into a world that is mainly set in forests and villages to play into something that is exotic and removed from what is happening in Europe. There are a lot of wide shots of the various locations and settings in the film including some unique high and low camera angles to play into the idea that God is watching yet he remains silent in his action. Scorsese’s usage of medium shots and close-ups play into the struggles that Rodrigues and Garupe would face in the film’s first act as well as the sense of doubt that loom in the latter as he endures some frustration over the living situation in Japan as he and Rodrigues have to hide. The film’s second act has Scorsese take on some imagery that play into the idea of God’s existence such as this shot of Rodrigues drinking water and sees a picture of Jesus Christ in front of his reflection as it’s modeled by this portrait by El Greco.
It’s a moment that play into Rodrigues’ determination to help many as well as continue this mission to spread the Christian faith in Japan but it’s also a moment that forces him to see what this Japanese council will do to prevent that from happening. Even as there’s these intense moments of violence that Rodrigues would have to witness as Scorsese doesn’t shy away from the brutality of the tortures and such that is happening to these Japanese Christians. The film’s third act that relates to the reveal of what happened to Ferreira as Scorsese would showcase not just this sense of humility that Rodrigues has to endure but also the harsh reality over what he had to do for the survival of those who count on him. The film’s ending is over-drawn as it is told from the perspective of an outsider who watches Rodrigues in the choice he makes as it shows what he would do for the remainder of his life. It does play into the role he has to play for Japan at a time where few outsiders are allowed into the country while contemplating into why he and so many others had suffered for their beliefs. Overall, Scorsese creates a riveting yet evocative film about two Jesuit priests traveling to Japan where Christianity is forbidden as they deal with God’s silence.
Cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography for the usage of low-key lights and filters for some of the exterior scenes at night to the more naturalistic look for some of the scenes in the daytime as well as the usage of fire for some of the interior scenes at night. Editor Thelma Schoonmaker does amazing work with the film’s editing with its stylish usage of jump-cuts, dissolves, and slow-motion to play into the drama as well as some of the things that Rodrigues would see. Production/costume designer Dante Ferretti, with set decorator Francesca Lo Schiavo and supervising art director Wen-Ying Huang, does excellent work with the look of the houses and places in the villages and small towns in Japan as well as the interiors at the church in Portugal along with the look of the robes that many of the characters wear.
Special effects supervisor R. Bruce Steinheimer, with visual effects supervisors Pablo Helman and Jason H. Snell, does fantastic work with a few of the visual effects such as the image of Jesus Christ that Rodrigues would see in a watery reflection as well as a few pieces of set-dressing for some of the location. Sound editor Philip Stockton does superb work with the sound as it play into the natural atmosphere of the location as well as this idea of silence in an otherworldly environment that is enchanting to hear. The film’s music by Kim Allen Kluge and Kathryn Kluge is terrific for its low-key approach to ambient music mixed in with traditional Japanese music while music supervisors Randall Poster and John Schaefer would create a soundtrack that feature a lot of the traditional Japanese music of the times.
The casting by Ellen Lewis is wonderful as it feature some notable small roles from Ryo Kase and Nana Komatsu as a couple of Japanese Christians whom Rodrigues tries to help, Bela Baptiste as the Dutch trader late in the film, and Ciaran Hinds as Alessandro Valignano as a Jesuit leader who is expressing concern over Ferreira as he wonders what has happened in Japan. Issey Ogata is superb as Inoue Masashige as this grand councilor that has this unique presence whenever he appears while he is also kind of slimy in the way he says things as he represents someone that is willing to challenge Rodrigues’ views. Yosuke Kubozuka is fantastic as Kichijiro as an alcoholic Christian who guides Rodrigues and Garupe to Japan as he is also someone full of pity into the things he’s done. Shinya Tsukamoto is excellent as Mokichi as a village leader who is also a Christian that does whatever he can to hide Rodrigues and Garupe where he would endure punishment that is just brutal to watch.
Tadanobu Asano is brilliant as the interpreter to Masashige as a man that is fascinated by Rodrigues’ views yet he remains devoted to Japan’s need to maintain its identity as he is a complex individual that is trying to make sense of the situations that Rodrigues is in. Adam Driver is amazing as Francisco Garupe as a young Jesuit priest who copes with the harsh environment of Japan as well as the frustration of not doing anything where he and Rodrigues would separate to find Ferreira as well as spread Christianity to Japan. Liam Neeson is remarkable as Cristovao Ferreira as Garupe and Rodrigues’ mentor who traveled to Japan to spread Christianity to the country only to disappeared in the belief that he had renounced his faith where he appears briefly for much of the first act and again in the third. Finally, there’s Andrew Garfield in an incredible performance as Sebastiao Rodrigues as a young Jesuit priest that is determined to find his mentor and carry on in the mission to spread the word of Christianity in a country that is resistant to the idea where he is forced to see what happens to Christians in Japan as well as wonder why God hasn’t done anything to help them or say something.
Silence is a phenomenal film from Martin Scorsese. Featuring a great cast, gorgeous images, top-notch editing, and compelling themes on faith and some of its fallacies. It’s a film that explores a moment in time where men’s ideals are being challenged by resistance as well as ponder the existence of God. In the end, Silence is a sensational film from Martin Scorsese.
Martin Scorsese Films: (Who’s That Knocking on My Door?) – (Street Scenes) – Boxcar Bertha – (Mean Streets) – Italianamerican – Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore - Taxi Driver - New York, New York – American Boy: A Profile of Steven Prince - (The Last Waltz) – Raging Bull - The King of Comedy - After Hours - The Color of Money - The Last Temptation of Christ - New York Stories-Life Lessons - Goodfellas – Cape Fear (1991 film) - The Age of Innocence (1993 film) - (A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese Through American Movies) – (Casino) – (Kundun) – (My Voyage to Italy) – Bringing Out the Dead - (The Blues-Feel Like Going Home) – Gangs of New York - (The Aviator) – No Direction Home – The Departed - Shine a Light - Shutter Island - (A Letter to Elia) – (Public Speaking) - George Harrison: Living in the Material World - Hugo - The Wolf of Wall Street - (The Fifty Year Argument) – (The Irishman (2018 film))
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