Martin Scorsese’s latest passion project, Silence follows Portugese Christian missionaries as they attempt to bring their beliefs to a reluctant 1600’s Japan. The story is based on a heavily admired 1966 novel by Japanese author Shusaku Endo, it has taken Scorsese years to get it to the big screen and it’s obvious. The film has a run time of 2 hours and 41 minutes but felt far far longer.
The most appealing aspect of the film is its immersive sound track. Entirely diegetic, the audience is plunged into the isolation of a world far removed from the characters’ comfort zones. Kim Allen Kluge & Kathryn Kluge composed the unusual soundtrack, which melds birdsong and other ambient noise into the kind of textural soundscape that blends into the background. The audience truly is transported to the world of the characters, and this is not necessarily a good thing.
Some performances were incredibly dynamic, the Japanese cast in particular were fantastic. Unfortunately Andrew Garfield, while suitable scruffy, does not yet have the prowess to pull off his role. The Character of Rodrigues spends almost the entire film on screen, and a large chunk of that time, on his own. It’s a real shame that Garfield seems rudderless the second he’s left alone on screen. Scenes where the audience witnesses Rodrigues’ solo rumination on all things Christian are laborious, and the film is weighed down as a result.
I’m not sure how I feel about representations of proselytism on film, but challenging subject matter has never deterred me before so why stop now. As someone who walks the line between atheism and agnosticism I struggled to comprehend how anyone could maintain an unrelenting faith in God while witnessing firsthand the avoidable deaths of innocent people. When I combine my own feelings about religion with overwhelming feeling I got from the film, which was that Christianity wasn’t something the Japanese people seemed to show any meaningful interest in (Fun fact, in modern Japan, Christians account for less than 2% of the population). Overall the film felt like a waste of my energy in working so hard to relate to its characters. The beautiful landscapes, and the way the diegetic soundscape complements but never overwhelms the story are the only things that really go any way to me recommending the film to others.