Silence was a tough film to digest both during and well afterwards. I kept trying to understand the mind of Martin Scorsese and just what he was trying to say exactly throughout this film. I’m aware of the painstakingly long process that this film had underwent in order to get made (3 decades), but despite this being labeled a passion project from its director I failed to see any sort of infusion of passion during its overloaded runtime. In fact, in a more simpler explanation; it just seemed to lack any of what makes Scorsese great. There were glimmers of his vision and occasional showings of his signature style, but overall, Silence was a meandering story with little to show for by the end credits.
Scorsese does do an excellent job of showing the cruelty of both the Japanese countryside and its everyday life as well as the brutality of how peasants had to live during the end of the 17th century. There were beautiful and haunting scenes of the Japanese coast and a constant mist or fog that followed the protagonists around as if to be an omen in itself for what was to come. There are the classic voiceovers that he’s so well known for, but even in those there is a lack of buzz that is very noticeable.
What can be most notably criticized is the runtime. It clocking in around 2hrs and 40 minutes, Silence is well overdone. I almost felt as if being that this project took forever to complete Scorsese wanted to take advantage of the time he had and put everything in the film leaving nothing on the cutting room floor. It also scares me to think of the runtime for the director’s cut which I’m sure is over five hours. With that being said, there could’ve easily been over 40min of this film cut out and it would have been more powerful. I was left scratching my head as to why he let some scenes continue on so long to the point where they actually started to detract from the story. The counter-argument would be that all of it is indeed relevant to the story, however, it really wasn’t. There were some scenes that just went on way too long and provided little to no reasoning and support for the overall story other than to hammer home the point that life was hard back then.
The acting, along with the cinematography, is one of the main things that help keep this film treading water (for a time). Both Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver are very strong in this film with Liam Neeson helping at the beginning and end, but the true unsung heroes are those of the Japanese actors. They do an incredible job of helping realize the world in which the Catholic church was attempting to evangelize to in a foreign and hostile land. Because of their incredible way of assuming their roles, it truly felt like you were watching the truest form of a period piece.
Outside of those two things, I am truly struggling to find anything more to appreciate about Silence. My distant hope is that one day several months or years from now this movie will find its way back to me and I will view it again with a different sense of understanding. At its heart, I know that Silence is meant to be some sort of resemblance of Scorsese’s view on religion, but despite knowing that and having seen the film, I feel that the message was lost in a convoluted story that goes on about 40 minutes longer than it should.
I would recommend this movie only if you are a true die-hard Martin Scorsese fan and while I consider myself on the outskirts of that circle, I still found this to be a difficult watch. See at your own risk.
SILENCE – 2 Garys