Running Time: 161 minutes
Director: Martin Scorsese
Cast: Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver, Tadanobu Asano, Ciarán Hinds and Liam Neeson
In seventeenth century Japan were the practise of Christianity has been outlawed by the government two Jesuit Priests risk their lives as they search for their former mentor and padre who has reportedly turned his back on Catholicism.
I pray but I am lost. Am I just praying to silence?
When Martin Scorsese released The Wolf of Wall Street back in 2014 I remember remarking that it felt like a film made by a much younger director, not one in their early 70’s. The same can’t be said about Scorsese’s latest feature Silence: this deeply personal passion project for the acclaimed American filmmaker is one he’s been trying to bring to the big screen for nearly three decades since first reading Shūsaku Endō’s novel of the same name. Now that the film has finally been released I’ve got to ask myself whether it’s been worth the wait.
The short answer to that question is no, well in my humble opinion anyway, but I take no pleasure in saying that. There are few filmmakers nowadays who get my bum on a cinema seat with the release of their latest movie and Scorsese is definitely one of them, but for me Silence was just so bum-numbingly long as it meandered through the beautiful Japanese countryside. It’s not even the subject matter that put me off, I openly admit to be being an atheist, well more agnostic (I’m hedging my bets, what can I say) but I didn’t have any problem with a film that delved so deeply into the nature of faith: it’s just that those repeated theological conversations were too long-winded and quickly became repetitive.
It’s a very different kind of movie to Wolf of Wall Street so it would be unfair to compare the two, whereas that film galloped through its three-hour runtime, lurching from one drug-fuelled orgy to the next, Silence on the other hand slowly trudges through its own. A closer comparison within the director’s own back-catalogue would be The Last Temptation of Christ as much like Christ we see Garfield’s character having his faith in God tested to near breaking point as he searches for his former Padre. Sadly Silence isn’t anywhere near as engaging or punchy as Temptation and just lacked a real stand-out performance from either of its two leads.
Both Garfield and Driver give solid, if unremarkable performances throughout the feature: Garfield is engaging in the film’s central role, his portrayal of a man racked with self-doubt over his faith is fully believable and his inner-conflict forms the central thrust of the movie’s narrative. Sadly we don’t get to see much of Driver throughout the film but that’s probably down to his commitments to Star Wars Episode VIII more than anything though.
One thing about both actors’ performance that really got on my nerves though was their bizarre pseudo-Portuguese accents, they were terribly off-putting and seemed like a strange decision by Scorsese to have them play their roles that way; but the prize for the film’s worst accent sadly goes to our very own ‘Big Liam’.
When he eventually arrives in the film’s final act he seems to completely disregard his character’s Portuguese lineage and just go with his own Norn-Irish twang; but hey Sean Connery won an Oscar for his role in The Untouchables with THAT Irish accent. Neeson’s appearance within the film’s final act is just so underwhelming and on a par with Marlon Brando’s in Apocalypse Now.
Despite these criticisms there’s still much to admire about this film, it’s beautifully shot feature and probably Scorsese’s most artistic project to date; there’s clear visual nods to the work of Ingar Bergman and Akira Kurosawa, the film’s opening is particularly Berman-esque. It’s a deeply spiritual feature that touches on themes and ideas clearly close to the director’s own heart as it dabbles with interesting ideas and explores the cost of faith and devotion.
What would you do if the very god you believed in was suddenly declared illegal, when your faith and spirituality was outlawed what would you endure to continue the practise your faith. These profound spiritual soliloquies are often punctured by moments of truly shocking onscreen violence to maximise their impact, a crucifixion sequence in particular will live long in my memory after watching this film, its shock-value maximised by Rodrigo Prieto’s fine cinematography.
Probably Scorsese’s most artistic and personal feature to date, but one I’ll not be rushing to rewatch anytime soon. It’s just too long-winded and maybe the director’s passion for the project has meant the film lacks the more ruthless edit I feel it truly deserves. One for Scorsese completionists determined to watch the filmmaker’s entire back-catalogue.