Opening in theaters this Friday from director Martin Scorsese and Paramount Pictures is a novel come to screen living in “Silence.”
In 17th century Portugal, Jesuit priests Sebastiao Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) and Francisco Garupe (Adam Driver) are concerned about the whereabouts of their mentor, Father Cristovao Ferreira (Liam Neeson), who’s last known location was Japan.
During this time in Japan, priests as well as Christians were being subjected to torture and death for refusing to renounce their faith. Father Ferreira was one such priest, and the two young Jesuits plead with Father Alessandro Valignano (Ciaran Hinds) for permission to look for their mentor.
Once permission is granted, the two priests sneak their way into Japan with the help of Kichijiro (Yosuke Kubozuka). Landing near a village, it becomes clear quickly that the people practice Christianity in secret. Led by village elder Ichizo (Yoshi Oida) and follower Mokichi (Shin’ya Tsukamoto), Rodrigues and Garupe are given a place to hide.
The village is also happy to have the priests preach to them once again and have services. Rodrigues is elated to be surrounded by the Japanese people, who share his love of God. The word spreads quickly that the priests are on the island, and more villagers want the priests to come to them.
That is until Inoue Masashige (Issey Ogata) discovers that the villagers are still practicing Christianity. In order to stop it, he forces villagers to stomp on the likeness of Jesus with the priests watching from the bushes. Not believing the villagers, Masashige takes Nokichi and Ichizo — putting their faith to the ultimate test.
Rodrigues and Garupe separate with the goal to still find Father Ferreira. Kichijiro discovers Rodrigues walking through the hills and, to the Jesuits’ shock, is turned over to the Masashige. Now a battle of wills begins and a shock that will send Rodrigues over the edge of his faith.
Garfield as Rodrigues is clearly the star of this film. He portrays every emotion imaginable in a situation that clearly is out of the Jesuits’ religious depth. I enjoyed Garfield’s performance, and that is saying something of a film that comes in at almost three hours long. If I was to give anyone kudos, it would be Garfield.
Driver as Garupe is a wishy-washy Jesuit from the moment he is on the screen. I can never really tell if he truly believes in what he is doing or is a priest when the moment works in his favor. This isn’t the best performance from Driver, and he would have had time to put on a mask and grab a light saber to make this character more interesting.
Tsukamoto as Mokichi is such a beautiful and amazing character. From the moment he takes on the true meaning of his beliefs, I thought he was the most admirable character in the film. Along with village leader Oida as Ichizo, who also proved to be such an honorable and humble man of a faith that went against his culture, I loved his performance.
Neeson as Father Ferreira gives a scary performance in so many ways. Clearly this character has seen more than any priest ever should for a man of faith. Put in a position to give in to Inoue Masashinge years before, he now pushes Rodrigues to do what he must to stay alive — even if it is to give the Japanese what they want. I’m not sure I like this character, which I suppose is the point, but only Neeson could make me hold out hope.
Now for the bad news — Dear Mr. Scorsese, Did anyone think to tell you to stop? This film just didn’t need to be 161 minutes long. This film did not need to keep slamming Japanese cruelty down the audience’s throat. There were several times where I could not help but say out loud, “OK, OK, we get it, we get it.”
This film did not need the long, drawn-out scenes that didn’t have any importance to the story to my way of thinking. I quite honestly, Mr. Scorsese, don’t know what you could have been thinking! Did the idea of making this film weigh on you spiritually, because I can’t think of any other reason for dragging out a story that could have been told in half the time and, I have to admit I’d probably have enjoyed it more.
What hurts the most is watching people leave the theater, not to mention it’s a huge distraction for everyone else. Finally, I was screaming in my head the last 15 minutes, because the character of Rodrigues never truly had any fight in him — otherwise he would have found a way out. A yearly stomping of a religious relic is no reason to stay.
The scenes between Garfield and Neeson are the best part of the film, because they do bring about a conversation about the differences in cultures and religious beliefs. I just wish it had taken less time to get to that conversation.
In the end — sometimes silence is the deadliest sound!