This is probably one of the better pieces of cinema you’ll see this year. This Martin Scorsese directed film takes place in 17th century Japan. The Catholic Church is making its rounds around the world spreading catholicism and “the good news.”
A pair of Jesuit priests in Portugal get word of their mentor, Father Ferreira’s (Liam Neeson) passing and refuse to believe the news. It came via written letter that was more than a year old. The two priests, Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) and Garrpe (Adam Driver) decide to go to Japan to search for Father Ferreira on their own. But what was waiting for them in Japan was far greater than they could’ve ever anticipated.
There are a lot of overlapping themes in this film. At its core, this is a great story and a fine cinematic experience. One would expect nothing less from Scorsese. I have to give him props for making me feel like I was in 17th century Japan. Had I seen even two white extras just strolling around ‘Nagasaki’ I would’ve eviscerated this film from the jump for a horrifically inaccurate depiction of Japan.
The country’s hierarchy were not very open or accepting of this new religion in their country. Even though the pair of priests make an immediate impact on believers who were living in hiding, the consequences of spreading such “good news” was met with a horrible fate. People were taken as captives, some murdered, tortured, even decapitated. The line of the entire film was from a man called ‘The Inquisitor’ (Issey Ogata) who told Rodrigues: “This emperor who had 3 concubines, couldn’t find peace because his concubines did nothing but fight all the time. One day he sent them away and ironically, he found peace, happiness, and was more productive than he had ever been. Japan is the emperor… You (Portugal, Holland, Spain, and England) are the concubines…”
He just said a mouthful with that. Everything in history for the past few hundred years up to now revolves around that one, single, concept that he broke down. Colonialism, racism, xenophobia, discrimination, all of it at its root stems from European countries forcing their hand everywhere around the world.
It’s the same reason why half of Africa speaks French, yet a big majority of those countries are still paying taxes to France. It’s this European entitlement/overreach that has floated about the past 500 years or so. Every time one of the Japanese locals opposed the Jesuits, they backed their reasons with intelligence and actual occurrences. Rodrigues had nothing to support his stance except memorized verses. It’s that very entitlement that disgusted the Japanese: “You come to our country, refuse to learn our language, you don’t like our food, you mock our traditions, and have the audacity to say that our ways are bad and your ways are better?”
Rodrigues and Garrpe were overwhelmed by the amount of christians that appeared on the island. Lots of villagers were bringing friends, children, and others to get baptized by the Portugueses pair often referred to as “Padre.”
Rodrigues was most affected as so many people came to be baptized and confessed that even he was beginning to question his faith and inner strength. The only thing that kept the pair going was the desire to find Father Ferreira and see if he apostatized (abandoned the faith) or passed away.
On the positive end of the spectrum, its also a very valuable lesson in religious tolerance. At no point were the padres trying to turn the villagers on their government or their country, just to take solace in the fact that their suffering was not in vain. These people were already poor and living in fear. Grabbing hold of hope, tolerance, and peace shouldn’t result in someone being burned alive in front of their family.
I’d be remiss to not mention all of the Japanese talent that added to the root of the film’s power. The Interpreter (Tadanobu Asano), Kichijiro (Yosuke Kubozuka), Ichizo (Yoshi Oida), Mokichi (Shinya Tsukamoto), and The Inquisitor (Issey Ogata) all put on excellent performances that should impress all audiences.
Silence gets a 9 out of 10. It’s a beautiful film that highlights self exploration, historical themes, and religious tolerance. It’s worst enemy is its runtime of 161 minutes. That matched with a handful of slow-paced moments make you feel the length of the film. But it truly is a masterpiece, so don’t let the film’s length deter you from experiencing greatness on screen.