Silence : Review

As a huge Scorsese fan, I greet every new film he puts out with a great deal of expectation. The trailers and press for Silence made it clear that we were dealing with fairly weighty subject matter of course. So I went in expecting a slightly more challenging experience than his last outing, with at least 50% less coke, whores and rhythmic chest beating.

Silence is famously a major passion project for Scorsese. It’s a religious/historical drama based on the 1966 novel of the same name by Shusaku Endo that the director has had in production since way back in 1990. Scorsese once toyed with entering the priesthood himself as a younger man and he has frequently included issues of faith in his works, from the crisis of conscience found in Mean Streets to the evocative subject matter of The Last Temptation of Christ.

It’s clear therefore why this story of 17th Century Jesuit priests travelling to Japan to locate their lost mentor and spread their teachings would resonate so strongly with the director.

While its clearly a very personal movie made with a lot of heart and passion, in terms of cinematic experience, it just didn’t really hit home with me at all. There are elements that impress, but as a whole it just came across as a little dull. A rare thing indeed for a Scorsese picture.

The cast undeniably do sterling work and while their wobbly accents are a slight distraction, both Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver prove themselves more than capable of tackling such a challenging piece of work. The Japanese supporting cast also all add to the film, both the desperate Christians looking for spiritual guidance, and those on the other side of the divide who seek to break their collective spirit.

The film also looks superb throughout. Scorsese and his DP Rodrigo Prieto capture both the natural beauty and the brutal man-made horrors perfectly.

Where it falls down for me personally is that it was just too long a film for such austere and sombre subject matter. Understandably of course, crises of faith and religious persecution is never going to be laugh-a-minute stuff. However despite it lengthy run time, at no point did it lure me in and grab my attention. Time dragged and despite the interesting topic at hand, there really wasn’t much plot to get my teeth in to.

In contrast to the rest of the film, the final stages actually felt a little rushed. At this stage a narration was also utilised which seemed strangely out of place. It felt like the director realised too late he had a fair chunk of story still to squeeze in and so the slow and steady pace was duly abandoned.

There is plenty to admire in Silence for sure, but in terms of cinematic experience, I came out of it feeling like it was something I forced myself to sit through, rather than something I actually enjoyed.

Rating: ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆

 

(Photo Credit: Paramount)

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