Silence, directed by (the one and only) Martin Scorsese (Wolf of Wall Street, Raging Bull), tells one of the most heart wrenching stories that shows both the consequences and beauty of faith. The story begins with a glimpse of 17th century Japan —a time when Jesuit priests took missionary trips to fulfill the ambitious wish of God to “preach the gospel to every living creature”; but in order to fulfill this wish, sacrifices had to be made. Throughout the film, we see the Japanese superiors conduct a witch hunt for peasants who have taken the Christian faith, and especially for the Jesuit priests who are teaching it upon them.
Two Portugal priests, Father Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) and Father Garupe (Adam Driver) immediately receive baffling news from their superior, Father Valignano that Father Ferreira (their mentor) has denounced his faith in public. After hearing the news, Father Rodrigues asks Father Valignano that he and Father Garupe must take it upon themselves to pursue their own mission to find Father Ferreira. Reluctantly, their superior accepts, but tells them, “the moment you set foot in that country, you step into high danger”.
Father Rodrigues and Father Garupe stay together for the first several days, but shortly afterwards, they are almost caught and killed by Japanese superiors. Therefore, they separate and pursue their own paths to find Father Ferreira; yet the rest of the film only follows the journey of Father Rodrigues. Shortly after they part, Father Rodrigues is caught along with convert peasants by the Japanese superiors and are taken to a prison camp. While at this prison camp, the Japanese superiors’ only goal is for Father Rodrigues to denounce the faith in front of the peasants to show that he and the Christian faith lacks credibility. Father Rodrigues repeatedly denies to do so as his devotion to God is too strong. However as he refuses to denounce, he witnesses peasants being tortured as well as Father Garupe’s execution.
Finally, Father Rodrigues finds Father Ferreira living peacefully on the other side of the camp where the superiors live; it turns out he has been living there for a year, has been forced to convert to Budaism, and has been forced to completely relinquish his Christian faith. Father Rodrigues is appalled, but soon realizes that Father Ferreira made these sacrifices to save the lives of peasants being brutally tortured. Father Rodrigues now knows that he must do the same in order to save the innocent peasants being tied and hung upside down as blood drips from their heads.
Once you think there is no hope left in the story for Father Rodrigues or for what seemed to be his unbreakable love to Christianity, the ending of the movie showed the most incredible bond to faith I have ever seen exhibited in a film (now that I won’t give away).
Silence, starring Andrew Garfield (Hacksaw Ridge, The Amazing Spider-Man) as Father Rodrigues, Adam Driver (Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Midnight Special) as Father Garupe, and Liam Neeson (Schindler’s List, Taken) as Father Ferreira created an excellent ensemble of actors for this extraordinary film.
Andrew Garfield, once again, never ceases to amaze me. I had great expectations for him after seeing (my favorite movie of 2016) Hacksaw Ridge and without a doubt, he fulfilled them. I absolutely love the roles he portrayed in 2016; Desmond Doss and now Father Rodrigues. It may not seem like it, but both characters share something in common: their explicitly strong endurance of their faith.
Garfield’s acting did not disappoint. There are a handful of scenes that I was impressed by in Silence, but one stands out from the rest. When Garfield’s character, Father Rodrigues, is about to witness the execution of a Japanese Christian peasant, they have one last conversation about the faith. While in the rain, they kneel together face to face (as seen in the above picture) as Rodrigues tells him, the soon to be martyr, that his love for Christianity is the most incredible thing he has ever witnessed. Father Rodrigues wishes him farewell after their prayers, and as the peasant is about to leave for his death, he gives Father Rodrigues a tiny cross made of wood he hand carved himself. Later, we find out that Father Rodrigues kept this close to him for the rest of his life. In this particular scene (and throughout the entire film) Garfield was nothing less than raw and real. The emotion exhibited to have to relinquish this innocent man to his death, in which he can do nothing but stand by and watch in utter pain, was impeccably performed by Garfield.
I find it very profound that Martin Scorsese chose Garfield to star in one of his movies, as his acting career is still young; but that’s how Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro started their careers with Scorsese too. Therefore, by Garfield doing this film, he has made a great leap for his career and I see him joining the greats such as DiCaprio and DeNiro in the future as he is already on the right path.
I was also impressed by Adam Driver as this was the first film I have seen him in (no I have not seen the most recent Star Wars movie, sorry). One thing I have utmost respect for in an actor is his willingness to commit to his given role. Scorsese instructed Driver to lose 50 pounds as well as for Garfield to lose 40 pounds, and that is exactly what they both did. Driver said while filming, he was faint and weak at most times due to the weight loss; even Garfield said the whole experience of losing that much weight was very unpleasant.
In the scene on the beach where Driver’s character (Father Garupe) is about to die, you’re able to see how incredibly thin he is, almost skin and bones. Even though his role was somewhat small in Silence, he fulfilled it role very well as he served as a contrast to Father Rodrigues. Driver’s character was impatient, irrational, and exhibited great doubt toward their journey and in God.
The cinematography in Silence was nothing less than gorgeous as it simultaneously captured the beauty and the monstrosity of 17th century Japan. Various shots particularly caught my eye; one was an aerial, horizontal shot that followed Father Rodrigues, Father Garupe, and Father Valignano walking down a long set of white stairs as they are elegantly contrasted in their black garbs. Another shot I enjoyed was the almost standstill view that began the film. It primarily focused upon Japan’s lush green mountains. But after a few seconds, the viewer immediately sees prosecuted peasants among clouds of steam from boiling natural hot springs as they walk down the mountains in misery. The steam from the hot springs reminded me of the beginning of Taxi Driver when Robert De Niro’s character walked down the street of New York as he passed clouds of steam.
I was very happy that Silence’s cinematography (done by Rodrigo Prieto) has been nominated for an Oscar, it is beyond deserving of the nomination. However, with La La Land in the same category, and with its capability to take about every award it has been nominated for, it concerns me that Silence will not win for cinematography; even though I thought the cinematography was much, much better than La La Land’s.
Overall, I give Silence 4 out of 5 stars, and the only thing I was disappointed by from Silence was its inability to be further nominated for the Academy Awards. If La La Land was not released this year, I believe that Silence would have been more included in the nominations. However, I am at least grateful for its nomination for best cinematography. This film definitely goes on my list for my favorite movies of 2016. I thought it was better than Moonlight (which I personally think is the next most overrated film of this year next to La La Land) and Manchester By The Sea (two of this year’s Best Picture nominations). I am waiting in great anticipation for Garfield’s next two movies, set to be released this year: Breathe and Under The Silver Lake. Every movie he does, he improves as an actor and I am utterly impressed that by the end of 2017, he will have essentially completed four movies in only two years; his work is remarkable in quality and he makes great strides in each role he executes. Maybe Garfield won’t get an Oscar this year for Hacksaw Ridge, but maybe next year?
Written by Alyssa Weinstein