Silence (2016)

“I do because you are just like me. You see Jesus in Gethsemane and believe your trial is the same as His. Those five in the pit are suffering too, just like Jesus, but they don’t have your pride. They would never compare themselves to Jesus. Do you have the right to make them suffer? I heard the cries of suffering in this same cell. And I acted.”

‘Silence’, directed by Martin Scorsese in 2016, is an American historical drama set in Japan in the 17th century. Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver play two Catholic priests who volunteer to leave their home in Macau and venture into Japan to hunt down their former mentor Cristóvão Ferreira, played by Liam Neeson. There is extreme danger in their mission, however, as Japan has outlawed Christianity and is persecuting locals and incomers who practice the faith. They travel through the villages looking for Ferreira and, in doing so, helping the Christian residents by celebrating Mass and baptising. The brutality of the regime catches up with them however and they are finally arrested. Only then do they discover the true fate of Ferreira. Scorsese’s movie is a powerful and harrowing one. The film is punctuated by scenes of torture as the Japanese attempt to force the Christians to renounce their faiths. A large part of the film succeeds because of the convincing performances of Garfield and Driver, but also the arguably tougher challenges placed on the Japanese actors, in particular Issey Ogata and those playing the persecuted villagers. The tone of the film, for me, was reminiscent of Elem Klimov’s ‘Come and See’, a tough war movie that uses children in the same role as the Catholic priests in ‘Silence’, to witness first-hand the horrors of persecution. As in the Russian film, there is a feeling that the actors themselves have been changed by the experience: Driver and Garfield seem to wither and diminish as the film progresses.

Would I recommend it? It’s a powerful and harrowing movie, but beautifully shot and with a powerful message that Scorsese relays without the sentimentality of ‘Hugo’ or the pyrotechnics of ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’. Watch in a difficult double bill with ‘Come and See’.

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