Release Year: 2016
Director: Martin Scorsese
Writers: Jay Cocks (screenplay), Martin Scorsese (screenplay), Shûsaku Endô (based on his 1966 novel Silence)
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver, Liam Neeson, Tadanobu Asano, Ciarán Hinds, Issei Ogata, Shin’ya Tsukamoto, Yoshi Oida, Yôsuke Kubozuka, Kaoru Endô
Rating: Nominated for 1 Oscar: Best Cinematography.
In the 17th century, two Jesuit priests travel to Japan to revive the Catholic mission there and locate their former mentor Ferreira (Liam Neeson), who is rumored to have renounced the faith.
Martin Scorsese is mostly known for highly entertaining, violent movies about the criminal world, with lots of swearing. But Scorsese has from time to time taken a hard look at themes of faith and religion, previously in The Last Temptation of Christ (1988) and Kundun (1997). Here he returns to those themes for the third time in a passion project that had been on the seasoned director’s wish list for decades; in fact, following the wrap of The Wolf of Wall Street (2013) Scorsese refused to follow up with any other film than Silence. Based on the 1966 novel by Japanese author Shûsako Endô, the story’s focus is on the Jesuit priest Rodriguez’s dangerous travel into Japan during a period in which Japanese Catholics were persecuted following the Shimabara Rebellion (1637-38), but more importantly it follows Rodriguez’s travel through suffering and deeper into the nature of his own faith. Andrew Garfield (Hacksaw Ridge, 2016) stars as the jesuit priest and is absolutely great. Driver (Star Wars: The Force Awakens, 2015) and Neeson (Schindler’s List, 1993) are also great but plays much smaller parts and the film rests very much on Garfield’s shoulder. The also see a wealth of great Japanese actor, especially Issei Ogata as the Japanese inquisitor whose mental struggle with Rodriguez is central to the second half of the film and Yôsuke Kubozuka as the secret Christian who constantly fails the priest only to aks again and again for the sacrament of confession. The film is hard to watch in more ways than one: it has long and realistic scenes of torture and executions, but it is also hard on a deeper level. It demands much of its audience as it carefully, slowly, and quietly explores complex themes. It is visually stunning and at heart a moving story about the power and beauty of faith. It is long and is certainly not for everyone but is bound to stay in your mind for a long time after that haunting final image.
The film was screened early for 40 Jesuit priests in Rome and its world premiere was held at the Vatican.
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