Martin Scorsese has made a powerful film about the power of faith and the struggle between conflicting cultures. This epic story tells of the journey of two priests who come to Japan to find their lost teacher. Father Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) and Father Garupe (Adam Driver) are the two young priests that venture to hostel Japan. They have received news that their teacher Father Ferreira (Liam Neeson) has apostatized against the Christian faith. They do not believe the rumors and determine that they will travel to Japan to retrieve their father and discover the truth while spreading the gospel.
The brutal torture of Japanese Christians is revealed early and continues throughout the film making this a movie that could be difficult to watch for some. The Inquisitor (Issei Ogata) persecutes the faithful with elaborate tactics that conspire to bring out the worst in humans. They provide religious tests like stepping on an image of Christ or spitting on a cross to weed out the Christians. They put the citizens to death making the priests doubt their mission and put out a bounty for the priests' capture.
The question of religion is a complicated one but the exploration by Scorsese in Silence is intriguing. It shows how the gospel thrived by preaching suffering and paradise after death allowing for the believers to sacrifice themselves despite brutal torture and executions. The movie also explores the power of symbols from tiny bamboo crosses to a simple bead of a rosary, all religious symbolism has been banned from the island so any small trinket is important to the undercover Christians.
Garfield is great adding to an already stellar year playing devout characters. His torture and the decline of his wellbeing throughout is shown through his stellar performance. As supporting actors both Driver and Neeson are enjoyable to watch but it is supporting performances from Yosuke Kubozuka as the tormented Kichijiro who abandons his faith and repents repeatedly. The direction is gorgeous and the landscape of Japan add to the wonder and act as a counter to the horror of human nature.
I have enjoyed tons of Scorsese's movies and Silence is yet another one that I can add to a long list of great movies. The film has been ignored by the Academy but deserves recognition for the epic tale of the trials of faith in 1600s Japan. The film doesn't feel like a Christian movie though it espouses the power of devotion and I enjoyed it despite having no faith in Christianity. In an era where the U.S. is beginning a ban on Muslim immigrant, the movie feels relevant. I would recommend this movie to those who enjoy their views challenge and have a stomach for harsh treatment of humans by other humans.