Tuesday, January 24, 2017

With His Passion Project 'Silence', Scorsese Accomplishes Another Masterful Film

Silence is the latest epic period drama film from renowned director Martin Scorsese.  Based on the 1966 novel of the same name by Shūsaku Endō, this movie has been a passion project for Scorsese, who had been eager to adapt the novel ever since he read it, but took 25 years of development.

The movie tells the story of two 17th-century Portuguese Jesuit priests – Father Sebastião Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) and Father Francisco Garupe (Adam Driver) – who set off toward Nagasaki, Japan, risking their lives to look for Father Cristóvão Ferreira (Liam Neeson), their mentor and a missionary to the Japanese, in order to disprove a rumor that reached their order that he had renounced his faith as a result of the shogunate’s vicious “Inquisition” against Christians.
I was initially interested to this movie because it involves Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver, and Liam Neeson playing the three central characters.  The plot has Spider-Man and Kylo Ren in a mission to look for Qui-Gon Jinn (or Brian Mills, or Ra’s al Ghul).

But by watching the movie, I got drawn to it by its own merits.  Silence is a technically well-crafted movie.  It has beautiful production value.  Every frame is wonderfully and purposefully well-shot.  The direction makes use of every second of its lengthy run-time efficiently to tell an engrossing, brutal, emotionally taxing story.  There are many unsettling sequences in this movie that are simply difficult to watch through, but, at the same time, create gorgeous, impactful storytelling.  And the actors perform Scorsese’s narrative vision for their respective characters with compelling, soul-piercing believability.
It’s also worth mentioning that, as a Christian, I recognize that it has some story events and character decisions that don’t reflect a Christian worldview.  Nevertheless, it definitely has thought-provoking faith-related insights (for when Christians consume products of art and culture, or any man-made pleasures, they should always be discerning and observant of redeemable, meaningful elements that may help them in their spiritual lives and filter out those that won’t).  So instead of criticizing or lamenting or groaning about any erroneous or discounting depictions of the Christian faith, a Christian, if he chooses to watch the movie, must reflect on what would he do if the steadfastness of his faith is tested in such a horrifying manner as portrayed in the film, and be thankful that he’s currently not being being tested in such a way.

Silence is certainly not one of Scorsese’s best films – he simply has more notably impressive and memorable ones in his body of work – nor is it a consideration of becoming one of my favorite Scorsese films (Goodfellas, Gangs of New York, and The Departed).  And, to be honest, with Silence being his “passion project” and all, I was expecting more.  Nevertheless, it’s once again another testament of how much of a masterful filmmaker Scorsese is.
Miscellaneous musings:
  • I will be labeling this as a 2017 movie instead of a 2016 movie since it has only been widely released this month.
  • Would love for Garfield to win an Oscar.  It’s very probable that he’ll get nominated for either his work in Silence or Hacksaw Ridge, but the fact that he has two great performances will split his votes.  If only the Academy will allow his votes to be combined, so that he’ll have a fighting chance of edging Casey Afleck and Denzel Washington.
  • It would be awesome if he wins Best Actor while former flame Emma Stone wins Best Actress.

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