Wednesday, 4 January 2017

'Silence' Review

2017 starts off with a movie from the legendary Martin Scorsese, you can't really complain about that. 'Silence' seems to take Scorsese away from his usual type of film as it looks trials within religion rather than within crime. As it is different subject matters, would Scorsese's magic transfer into 'Silence'?

Two Portuguese Priests Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) and Francisco (Adam Driver) look to travel to Japan in order to find their mentor Father Ferreira (Liam Neeson). Ferreira has apparently denounced his faith as he faced prosecution due to his association with the Christian faith. The pair now faces high danger in Japan as if they are caught by the Japanese, they will be imprisoned, tortured and possibly even killed. Their faith will be tested to the limit as the try to locate Ferreira.

The film year of 2017 starts off with a particularly hard watch. No, I'm not just talking about the 2 hour and 41-minute runtime but the subject matter and story of 'Silence'. Scorsese looks to explore how powerful faith is and how far it can truly drive people. The story focuses on how Christianity was pretty much banned and punishable by death during the time of Kakure Kirishitan, also known as 'The Hidden Christians'. This leads to some hard to watch scenes due to torture and also just how the story pans out. Scorsese doesn't hold back here, showing images of people being burned alive, crucified against waves and beheadings to name a few.

 The film is actually fairly frustrating as you see the priests struggle in Japan and you actually feel this in the audience. This happens particularly in the later stages of the film as it does seem to drag but remains effective at the same time. You, like the Christians, are frustrated by the lack of advancement in the priests quest due to this which is actually a very clever piece of filmmaking. This, however, does make it unlikely that you may rewatch this film as it is enough to sit through one time as it is. Although the film experience cannot be denied, as the film comes closer to the climax, you do feel the run-time start to take its toll. What comes with the frustration may even seem boring and disengaging to audiences as it seems to lose its tension and grip on the viewer. The ending isn't nearly as effective as the rest of the film and due to this, you want the film to start to wrap up. The bad thing about that is that there is still about half an hour to go in the film. 'Silence' most definitely isn't the most entertaining film but it's worth so much more than that. It is to carry this message of how strong faith can be, no matter how hard times are. 'Silence' is an experience, you go to be a part of the film and feel what the characters are going through.

Of course, faith is the main part of the story but Scorsese does not hold back at questioning the faith. The question of how God could allow this suffering under his watch is constantly on thought throughout the film, especially as the Japanese try to break the faith. We see characters denouncing their faith to save their lives with the basic question "Is the suffering worth it?" also being posed to those who have been held as prisoners. This does lead Scorsese to go a bit over the top with Garfield's character as he starts to resemble Christ more as the film goes on. This does seem most overdone once Garfield's character hallucinates and see's Christ in his own reflection.

Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver were strange castings in the role as the Portuguese Priests. For one, neither of them are Portuguese or even look remotely Portuguese, Driver in particular. Not only do the two not look the part but there are some inconsistencies within their accents that are distracting. Garfield is most noticeable as early on his character seems to over pronounce but it weaves in and out of the film throughout the runtime. Other than this both actors, do excel in their roles, showing the grief and hardship that they are going through whilst carrying out their mission. There was a particularly interesting dynamic within Driver's character being frustrated - see how that comes up yet again - but it never really seems to go anywhere. Instead, the main focus is on the fresh-faced Garfield who seems to have put the days of Spider-Man behind him and has become a very solid actor. Liam Neeson also features in this film but not as much as you'd maybe hope. Yoshi Oida, Yosuke Kubozuka and Issey Ogata lead the rest of the cast that brings a feeling as if you are in Japan. The use of the Japanese language is very effective throughout this, as well as using actors with thick accents as it sets up that authentic feeling. Kubozuka's character Kichijiro was a great addition the film as his actions made him unpredictable, bringing some humour at times which didn't feel out of place.

What Scorses does immensely within 'Silence' is created arguably his best-looking film to date. Shot entirely in Taiwan, Scorsese works alongside cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto to create some breathtaking shots. A wide range of long and overhead shots showcase the beauty of the set-up Japanese coastlines, mountains and villages, despite some of the horrible things that are going on. Prieto may very well be on track for another Academy Award nomination - with his last being over 10 years ago - as his work was of the highest standard. Scorsese's use of screen space works very well as well as his work in tight confines. The pair manages to make everything from the delightful scenery to the vilest of acts look marvellous. There is a high quality that oozes throughout the whole film as Scorsese has undoubtedly made one of the most visually appealing films of recent times.

'Silence' won't appeal to the casual filmgoer. Sure there is violence seen throughout the film but this isn't going to leave you particularly thrilled after the film. The slow pace will not appeal to the casual audience and may feel that the film doesn't do anything to keep the attention needed for it. However, Scorsese's message is undeniably effective throughout the film and although it may not be thoroughly entertaining, 'Silence' is a great experience.

Final Verdict = 

As 2017 has begun, I have decided to change my grading system. Instead of the academic style (A+, A, A-), I will now create an overall percentage based off of 10 points related to the film. Aspects like Entertainment, Performances, Story and Directing will always be taken into consideration and the rest of the 10 will be made up of aspects related to that genre or style of a film.

So have you seen 'Silence'? If so, what did you think of the film? I hope that this review was useful for if you were planning on seeing the movie! Once again, thank you for taking the time to read my review, it is much appreciated!

By Angus McGregor