Silence (2016)

Silence, an adaptation of the Japanese novel of the same name and the latest effort from Martin Scorsese, is nearly three hours long. Scorsese is known for the long length of his films so this wasn’t a surprise, but it remained a focal point in my mind as I was going into the cinema. Three hours in a packed and stuffy cinema watching a film about the spiritual journey of two Jesuit priests who have travelled to 17th century Japan during the persecution of Christians to seek out their lost mentor. It’s a challenge which requires preparation, so I stocked up with a packet of chips, M&Ms, and a large Pepsi. As you can imagine, finding loud moments in a film called Silence to take a bite of your crunchy chips is a slow endeavour. Perhaps this is an apt analogy for the film itself.

Silence is undeniably slow-paced, and it didn’t always maintain my attention or that of the rest of the audience. I noticed a few audience members using their hands to support their heads as the film progressed, while another couple just straight up walked out after the first hour. Despite this, the film is littered with moments in which it finally takes a bite of the delicious, crunchy chip, and it has your attention again.

Don’t be fooled by the premise into thinking the film is about religion. Religion is merely the back-drop. The film is about faith and our experience when it is challenged. Our protagonist Father Rodrigues – played by the fantastic Andrew Garfield – is put through a hellish experience. Whether it’s through physical violence or emotional devastation, the Japanese are determined to break down Rodrigues and other Christians in an effort to destroy what they believe is a toxic faith.

Despite their actions, the film empathises with the Japanese, with their perspective on Christianity and the events occurring articulately vocalised by actors Tadanobu Asano and Issey Ogata as inquisitors. It’s even easier to empathise with these men when both actors are highlights in the film, with Ogata especially delivering a simultaneously sinister and comedic performance.

Ultimately, no clear antagonist emerges. Both Rodrigues and the Japanese are partial to moments of logic and reason as well as ignorance and arrogance. This is understandable as this isn’t a film about good vs. evil, and my review isn’t about labelling the film as either good or bad. The only accurate description is to say that Scorsese has created a personal and profound film, a human story which can be experienced by anyone regardless of their beliefs. I’d say that’s certainly worth sitting in a cinema for three hours.

Alternative plot:

A spin-off of the Taken series in which two priests go on a violent rampage through Japan in search of Liam Neeson.

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