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Director — Martin Scorsese
Silence was not so much a movie for me, but rather a meditation on Western religion which meticulously deconstructs the dominant beliefs of Christianity by aligning them against those of other religions.
The film tells of two 17th century Portuguese Christian missionaries, played by Adam Driver and Andrew Garfield, who are sent to Japan, a primarily Buddhist nation, to search for Father Ferreira. Ferreira, played by Liam Neeson, is on a mission to spread the faith, and is said to have been tortured and denounced by God.
The response to their arrival by Japanese officials is less than welcoming, with their faith being tested rigorously throughout the film via torture and constant physical and psychological abuse — HOLY SHIT, the Japanese characters know how to torture and kill!
Scorsese shows Christianity’s focus on an unseen God that judges without recognition, and juxtaposes this with a portrayal of the Buddhist faith in which God is everywhere and all around, there is not some far off kingdom in the sky, and paradise is Earth itself.
Scorsese’s cinematography acknowledges this many times, as his composition portrays characters as small in comparison to or surrounded by the natural world, creating an illusion that the human will shall always be incredibly insignificant compared to the grandeur of nature. Slowly but surely, the viewer begins to recognise this as more acceptable, and begins to not only sympathise less with the missionaries but almost sees that their commitment to their faith is, at some level, selfish and futile.
I don’t want to belittle the Christian faith; I myself was brought up as Catholic. However, this film did introduce me to a level of religious contemplation and development I have never experienced before. It made me think about the divine, not as a cosmic entity that I would join in the afterlife, but as something ever-present right now. It also made me think of the beauty and brutality of the natural world we live in.
This film shows that we should not be expect a divine presence to tell us what to do as, for the most part, that entity most likely will not contact us. This is where the film’s symbolic title comes into play, as the work of Driver, Garfield, and Neeson falls on deaf ears and they seem to be praying to silence. Their suffering is not relieved nor do their efforts seem to be in any way productive to their cause. Silence is definitely one of, if not, Scorsese’s most artistic pieces of work both intellectually and visually. The images are basically nature porn with thick Japanese forests and beaches punctuating every scene. The film can be read from a religious angle with the tensions between Buddhism and Christianity, or a conservationist angle with the focus on people and nature. If you want to skip all of that, and just want a really good movie to watch, the plot is really good and the acting is very solid from both the celebrities and the unnamed Japanese extras.
My advice for Silence is to go see it with someone you can have a coffee with afterwards because there is A LOT to talk about.