HTS Moderator , Reviewer
HTS Overall Score:78
Martin Scorsese is a living legend in the film world. I’ve watching just about everything that the man has directed from his gangster films to his slow-moving dramas. Personally, I can watch his 3 hours long films without feeling like I’ve just spent half a day laboring over the age old “how long is left on the runtime” game. “Silence” is actually another film much like “The Last Temptation of Christ”, in that its borrowed from a book of the same name written in 1966 by a Japanese Catholic novelist. It also shares the distinction of having a very warped view of Christianity and God if you’re at all familiar with biblical Texts. Scorsese’s attention to masterful detail makes this a thrilling and absolutely mesmerizing watch, but also one that left me very disturbed on a theological level.
I truly hate to bring religion into my reviews, and not because I’m ashamed of it or dislike religions. I’m a firm believer in stating my opinion on religion and then discussing the film’s merits or failures. Basically, I try to keep a film review as objective and clinical as possible in regards to politics and religion. However, there are some instances where discussion of those two “taboo” subjects must be brought to light. If I was reviewing a film called “Bush vs. Obama, who’s better?” you can be sure that there would be politics and opinions in my review. The same goes when you have a film that deals with literally the very basis of faith under pressure that I am forced to justify WHY I’m rating the film the way I do.
The basis of the movie is off of the 1966 book of the same name, about the horrors and trials of the great Christian “purge” of the 1600s when the Japanese government did their very best to stamp out the Christian influence in their society. Over 300,000 Christians were slaughtered, tortured and beaten for their faith to the point that they were all eliminated (or at least went into hiding and wouldn’t come out). The chronicles of this time are well documented and the Japanese Christian church still discuss these incidents to this Day. The novel and the film by Scorsese document the happenings of several apostate priests. Rumor has made its way back to Portugal that Father Ferreira (Liam Neeson) has recanted his faith under pressure. The head of the Jesuits back home in Portugal has written Father Ferreira off, but Father’s Rodriguez (Andrew Garfield) and Garrpe (Adam Driver) are of the opinion that Ferreira has been slandered. At the very least they owe it to him to go to Japan and find out what has happened and bring him back to the faith if he has fallen away.
Travelling to Japan the two Fathers are greeted by the hidden members of the Japanese Christian church and welcomed in despite the incredible risk that they’re taking. While there the two men are separated and in the process Father Rodriguez is captured by the grand inquisitor. Now comes the meat of the story. The Japanese government had figured out years ago that killing off the converts and slaughtering the priests only bred martyrs for God. So, instead of killing them off the inquisitor spends mass quantities of time subtly chipping away at the foundation of their faith. Pushing them to stomp on a graven image of Christ (known as a fumie) in a symbolic gesture of apostasy. Those who did so were free to go back into the community and live as normal (even though the reality of the situation is that even when recanted, history has made known that they were still tortured and killed). But the crème de la crème of the apostates was not the converts, it was the priests. The grand inquisitor knows that if you can get the LEADER to recant his faith, the flock is more likely to break down once the head is gone from the body. A diabolical, but sometimes very effective strategy.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=94266[/img]As Rodriguez spends time with the inquisitor his faith is still rock solid, although he can’t seem to hear any guidance from the Lord, who seems to be silent (hence the title of the film/novel). No matter what happens, his faith is unshaken, even though the Japanese Christians that he is there to witness to and guide are being tortured in front of his very eyes. SPOILER AHEAD (sorry, it can’t be helped in the discussion) . This is where the film takes a strange turn for the bizarre. Scorsese (and by proxy the author of the book) makes a strong case for apostasy being an act of love. Denying God so that others may not suffer is seen as an act of love and worthy of admiration. Sure, they denounced God, but it was FOR other people, right? Isn’t that what God was all about? Love? Rodriguez’s stepping on the Fumie and giving up was something I was suspicious of since about the 2nd act, but the misguided Message that Scorsese glorifies shows a PROFOUND ignorance of the suffering of the saints, and the true meaning of being willing to die for your faith. Like I said, I really hate to bring religious doctrine into a review, but when one is on full display like this I have to point out that it is a very disturbing presentation. I won’t go into a debate or sermon about why this is horribly misguided and warped as that would be another 10 pages added to the review, but sufficed to say that it makes a horrible horrible representation of what love is, and the consequences of denying one’s faith. The book “Silence” is actually banned by the Japanese Catholic Church today for its content (something I don’t personally agree on. Banning something only gives more power to a message, combating a message with truth and scrutiny is a much more effective method, and not only that I am a huge anti-censorship proponent.), and while I don’t agree with that I can understand WHY they’re so upset with the message contained within.
Scorsese has really made an incredibly well-crafted movie here, which adds to my conflicted rating of the movie. It is incredibly well detailed and flows seamlessly throughout. You’re sitting there with baited breath just wondering what is going to happen next to Father Rodriguez and Father Garrpe, and the visual style is nothing short of stunning. Scorsese is such a unique and stylistic director, but “Silence” bears very little of the marks of a typical Scorsese film. The long narration by Andrew Garfield is about the only thing that bears resemblance to his other films, besides some of the long spacious shots that allow for a wide angle shot of the nature around him. This is one of the major benefits to “Silence”, as it is distinctly fresh and new for the director, as he puts his heart and soul into the project. In that aspect, I would rate the film a 4/5. My conflict comes with borderline blasphemous take on the subject of apostasy and forgiveness. Scorsese has shown us before with “The Last Temptation of Christ” that he’s a fan of “alternate” Christianity and as such he pushes the theme hard in the last act of the film in regards to sacrificing one’s own faith to “alleviate other’s suffering”. The entire third act left a very VERY sour taste in my mouth thematically and on that front I would have to rate the content a 2/5, which is why I’m averaging those two scores into a 3/5.
Rated R for some disturbing violent content
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=94274[/img]Scorsese knows how to shoot his films, and “Silence” is nothing short of incredible looking on Blu-ray. Clocking in at over 2 hours and 40 minutes it still maintains healthy detail and nearly ZERO artifacting (I did notice some minor crush in a few spots and a teensy bit of banding during an ocean scene). Faces and skin textures are razor sharp, with every loose hair on Garfield’s face and every fleck of dirt and tear visible on his haggard frame. The wide-angle shots of the Japanese countryside are just lush with vibrant greens (I have never seen greens this vibrant before) and sharp contrast with a spurt of blood from a beheading shows up against the dusty and earthen looking prison that the priest is kept in. skin tones are fairly natural and while I noticed a slightly ruddy look to the skin coloring at times, it was never overly hot on the red push. Blacks are deep and inky (sometimes a bit too deep as there is some crush as mentioned above) and show incredible shadow detail when Rodriguez is in his prison. A simply marvelous encode from Paramount that really makes your system shine.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=94282[/img]Strangely enough this release doesn’t come with an Atmos track, or at least a 7.1 mix, which is strange considering how most high profile films these days are getting that treatment. Still, the 5.1 DTS-HD MA mix is incredibly well done and finely nuanced throughout. “Silence” is not an action movie, and except for a few flickers of brief violence there is nothing that would turn this movie into a sonic spectacle. Instead the focus is strongly on the vocals but with an equal amount of attention paid to the supporting noises of the film. It goes without saying that the dialog is exceptional and mixed well with rest of the audio, but the real joy is listening to the background noises. The rush of the water as it’s lapping up to the feet of the crucified men and women, or the chirping of bird while the Inquisitor is beguiling Father Rodriguez. Every footstep, ever crunch of foot dirt, every single creak of board is masterfully replicated and so distinct in tone and sonic “texture” that you can almost watch the movie blindfolded. Exceptional from beginning to end.
• Martin Scorsese's Journey Into 'Silence'
“Silence” left me feeling very conflicted. On one hand Scorsese delivers the good with a fantastically nuanced film that had me sitting on the edge of my seat despite its languid pace. On the other hand the theological content contained within is something I very strongly feel is not only a poor representation of the Bible’s teachings, but actually offensively against it in some points. Being a Christian myself this naturally affected me more strongly than it would someone who doesn’t believe the same religious convictions that I do, so your enjoyment of the movie may be more than mine as a result. However, like “The Last Temptation of Christ” I feel “Silence” is a disturbing film that is worthy of watching to scrutinize for its theology (or warping of it), but once that I can’t whole heartedly recommend even though there were great stretches of the movie that I thoroughly enjoyed. The audio and video are nothing short of amazing, but the extras are REALLY lean for your typical Scorsese film (although they are rather entertaining). Cautionary Rental is my personal recommendation.
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver, Liam Neeson
Directed by: Martin Scorsese
Written by: Martin Scorsese, Jay Cocks
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1, French, Spanish DD 5.1
Runtime: 161 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: March 28th, 2017
Buy Silence On Blu-ray at Amazon
Recommendation: Cautious Rental
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