Went to see Martin Scorcese’s Silence yesterday, which turned out to be the kind of movie that leaves me glad to have watched and doubtful I’ll ever feel the desire to watch again. Intriguing story, amazing acting, capturing cinematography, but for large parts excruciating, painful.
Based on the historical novel of the same title by Japanese author Shūsaku Endō, Silence follows the emotional and spiritual journey of young Portuguese Jesuit missionary Sebastiao Rodrigues, who is sent to 17th century Japan to investigate the whereabouts and possible apostasy commited by his former mentor Ferreira (Liam Neeson).
Since both the Japan-based Jesuits as well as the Japanese Christians are facing persecution and extinction during years in which Silence takes place, it is feared that Ferreira might either have been killed or have sworn off his faith. The conditions that Rodrigues and an accompanying priest, Garupe, encounter once they have landed in Japan are getting increasingly nightmarish. Hiding, betrayal and torture to the death ensue.
Placed within a larger context of identity and faith, the major questions which Silence is posing are questions that are, in one way or another, all related to suffering. How much can a man bear, or is a man possibly willing to bear, for his own sake, for the sake of others? And where to place oneself along the lines of pragmatism vs. idealism?
Very intense, outstanding performances from all of the involved actors. I believe the two that will stay with me for the longest are those of Liam Neeson (so very haunting) and Issey Ogata, the actor playing the Japanese inquisitor in a way that’s nothing but bone-chilling and clearly the stuff that nightmares are born from.
Andrew Garfield embodies the film’s main character Rodrigues wonderfully nuanced, passionate and increasingly desperate but always with an air of distanced, intellectualised (is that even a word in English?) idealism. However I can’t stop wondering what the originally cast Gael Garcia Bernal would have done with the role.
So, all in all, very intense viewing experience. Not sure whether to recommend, though.
Two remaining questions: 1.) Why on Earth did Scorcese feel the need to use so much voice-over narration when more often than not, the visual imagery would have been enough? 2.) Why do I, as a staunch secular humanist, always feel so incredibly drawn to this kind of stuff?