Cast: Liam Neeson, Andrew Garfield, Issey Ogata, Ken Watanabe, Adam Driver
Synopsis: In the 17th century, two Christian missionaries face the ultimate test of faith when they travel to Japan in search of their missing mentor, enduring violence and persecution at a time when Christianity was outlawed and their presence forbidden. Based on Shusaku Endo's 1966 acclaimed novel. "A harrowing, gorgeous cinematic experience that is bold, thought provoking and utterly singular."--Associated Press
Running Time: 161 Minutes (plus 8-10 minutes of trailers)
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Scorsese goes looking for God in ‘Silence
By Rene Rodriguez, Miami Herald
Exploring religion in movies is tricky. You lose the non-believers from the start; you can’t even get them inside the theater. But that didn’t deter Martin Scorsese, who spent more than 20 years working and revising his adaptation of Shūsaku Endō’s novel “Silence” before he deemed himself ready to start filming.
Financing woes caused further delays. But the finished movie feels like the result of thoughtful contemplation and interpretation. Scorsese hasn’t just adapted the book, about two 17th-century Jesuit priests who travel to Japan in search of their mentor. Scorsese has made “Silence” his own.
This is arguably the most personal picture to date from a filmmaker who always invests himself in his projects. But everything in “Silence” feels precise and exact — every shot considered, every cut calculated. When Father Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) and Father Garupe (Adam Driver) volunteer to travel from Portugal to Japan to search for their teacher Father Ferreira (Liam Neeson), who has gone missing and is rumored to have renounced his faith, you can almost hear Scorsese committing himself to making the movie, too. He’s going on this journey with them.
The difference is that Scorsese already knows what his final destination is. The first half of “Silence,” which Scorsese co-wrote with Jay Cocks, follows the two priests as they sneak into Japan in 1636. The country is under Tokugawa shogunate rule, Christianity has been outlawed and its followers are almost extinct. The few hundred remaining are persecuted by an inquisitor (Issei Ogata) who isn’t evil as much as he is reasonable. He’d rather convert Christians into renouncing their faith instead of executing them. And who better to make an example of than actual priests?
Deliberately paced, with a score made up largely of natural sounds and noises, “Silence” unfolds with a realism and simplicity that is uncommon for Scorsese (the camera rarely makes any flashy moves, except for a few grave moments when it must). The movie unfolds through the eyes of the two strangers in a strange land, although Rodrigues is the primary focus — he has more conviction.
Rodrigues is so steeped in his beliefs, so sure that God is listening even though he never replies with anything other than silence, that even after he’s separated from Garupe and taken prisoner, he seems incapable of apostatizing. So his captors start to increase their pressure to get him to step on a fumi-e, a likeness of Jesus or the Virgin Mary, which would be the ultimate repudiation of his faith. If the priest doesn’t cooperate, the inquisitor will start killing his followers.
The dilemma is impossible; its resolution is astounding. “Silence” becomes tenser and more engrossing in its second half, even though the story becomes a series of theological conversations, because there are innocent lives at stake. With its particular tale, the film touches on a larger, almost impossibly grand question about the value of spiritual faith in a world that has no use for it. Scorsese handles this heavy material with an intellectual curiosity and a visual style that keeps it nimble and engaging: The movie blows your mind as it fills your heart. And the ending, which is as perfect and lovely as any to grace a movie in 2016, sends you out of the theater in an awed hush.
“Silence” feels like a career summation for a filmmaker who has spent his life exploring his faith through his work. Here is a movie about the importance of religion that will move you, regardless of whichever God you worship — or don’t.
Copyright 2016 Miami Herald
Scorsese's 'Silence' is a gorgeous, harrowing journey
By Lindsey Bahr, Ap Film Writer
Martin Scorsese's "Silence " is not an easy film to watch. At times it's grotesquely violent, at others tediously slow. But it is a full and worthy cinematic experience that is bold, thought provoking and utterly singular. That it's also a nearly three-decade effort from one of our living greats is just an interesting factoid in the end — plus, we've been here before a few times over with Scorsese's passion projects.
Scorsese and screenwriter Jay Cocks ("The Age of Innocence") adapted "Silence" from Shusaku Endo's 1966 novel of the same name. Set in the 17th century, the film follows two Portuguese Jesuit priests, Father Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) and Father Garrpe (Adam Driver) who journey to Japan to try to find their fellow missionary, Father Ferreira (Liam Neeson), who has been rumored to have renounced his faith.
It's an acutely dangerous mission, which Father Valignano (Ciaran Hinds) tries to dissuade Rodrigues and Garrpe from pursing. In the years after the Shimabara Rebellion, Christianity in Japan was practiced only in secret — iconography and texts were confiscated and the known and even suspected devout were tortured and killed. But, driven by faith and duty Rodrigues and Garrpe might as well not have a choice in the matter at all. They can't even fathom not going, though, and thus they do.
The two men have to sneak into the country with the help of a semi-trustworthy scoundrel who is still reeling from his own crisis of faith. Japan (really, Taiwan where they shot) even looks uninviting. Shot by Rodrigo Prieto with production design from Dante Ferretti, the gray skies seem ready to close in on the mountains and subdued landscapes, and below, the dark sea thrashes violently against the shore.
When they arrive, their series of trials begin. They preach to local villagers desperate for an organized religion they've been forbidden from, they give away every cross and rosary they have and wonder whether the impoverished townspeople cherish the objects more than the meaning behind them, and they watch as authorities come through and ravage the towns looking for Christians to test.
Rodrigues and Garrpe separate for their safety and we continue to follow Rodrigues through the Japanese countryside as he encounters more dire displays of Japan's utter and complete intolerance for Christianity. In one of the more powerful sequences, three older men are hung from crosses positioned deep in the ocean's waters — the thrashing waves killing them slowly for their refusal to apostatize. An increasingly haunted Rodrigues looks on from a hiding spot.
Garfield carries the film and Rodrigues' agony on his slight shoulders — his second film about faith in a single season, following Mel Gibson's "Hacksaw Ridge." But it is Japanese actor Issey Ogata who steals the show as an older samurai who not only tells Rodrigues what's what but provides some of the funniest and disturbing moments in the film. It's a tonal departure, but a welcome one in what can be a bit of a slog.
It's a much more traditional and subdued film than the knowingly provocative "The Last Temptation of Christ." There's no Peter Gabriel guitar and nothing that is likely to enrage or inspire protests. But it does pick at doubt in a spiritually similar way. Rodrigues knows what his faith requires, and yet it continues to be tested and challenged by the physical and political realities of where he's inserted himself. Do the peasants, so grateful for his teachings, actually believe? Or are they looking for a way to the afterlife? What good, he's forced to wonder, is he actually doing there? "Silence" is as much about colonialism and intolerance as it is faith and conviction. While I'm still not sure what Scorsese wants the audience to think by the time the screen goes to black, the questions raised nonetheless feel modern and resonant.