One of the things I always look forward to is a new Martin Scorsese film. Scorsese is definitely one of the best filmmakers of the past and present, although I haven’t been to impressed with his recent streak of films. With Silence, I was hoping for a special film that could rank among some of his best. Silence seemed to be that film that would be a cinematic and spiritual experience. It does not disappoint on that level. However, upon reflection I’m still a bit mixed on this film. In fact I’d say this will polarize the audience and that’s probably what Scorsese had in mind.
One thing I hope is that people aren’t liking this movie because of the religious conflict. I think personal beliefs should be checked at the door when experiencing a film. If you go in with the mindset that this is sacrilegious to Christianity then you will have a biased view. Suspend your beliefs as they would say. I’d say Silence should be viewed in the theater or in the highest quality possible because some of the cinematography is beautiful. The oceans, plains, forest, clouds, pop out at you on the screen. Fog is seen often in the film and its great for suggesting a feeling of unease, anticipation, and even fear of the unknown. Scorsese’s camerawork is always a joy to behold and it won’t disappoint here. One of the most notable aspects of the film is the lack of non diegeitic music. There’s a minimal use of a score, Its truly silence in that aspect. It lets you absorb the world of the film, its nature, and its surroundings.
I’ve not always been sold on Andrew Garfield as a serious actor and I was scratching my head at him being the lead in this film. I’ll have to say I have no complaints here. Once you get used to the accents you basically see him at his best performance yet. His character has to show a bit of range as the film progresses, and I thought he did it well. Garfield’s Sebastião Rodrigues goes from cautiously optimistic to having a serious crisis of faith . A lot of the film is told from the perspective of his inner monologue which goes hand in hand to his state of mind as events transpire. I liked Adam Driver in this as well. The film could have used more of him.
Now to get to my criticisms. Perhaps I got the wrong impression from the subject matter and the trailer but I was expecting more action/violence. This is definitely not that kind of film. Which is fine, however there are times where the film could have used more violence to build fear. What happens to Garfield and his Christian faithful is a scary thing (in a scary land) but sometimes there seems to be no urgency. I had problems with the pacing. This was not a film that flew by. At its near three hour length, you will feel the length. The first act is slow, second act picks up but then drops in the final act. The final minutes are fairly predictable and the method of telling the story at this point felt odd.
We live in a pretty modern time but I could have seen this film being pretty controversial in an earlier decade (much like Scorsese’s Last Temptation of Christ). The themes and messages would have driven a fair few into a minor fit. God is silent and remains silent, through your pain. Your unwavering dedication to God; what does it mean? What purpose does it serve? Is it more important than living?
This was a passion project for Scorsese , which doesn’t always mean its going to be fun at all times for us. I’d say this is a good film but I couldn’t help but feel disappointed after expecting something of a masterclass from a fantastic filmmaker. By no means is it a bad film. I think I had problems with the delivery but the subject matter of the film is deep. I don’t think its one of Scorsese’s best; it wouldn’t crack my top 5 of his filmography. If you are a fan of his work, I think you owe it to yourself to see it and form your own opinion about it. Just be prepared to invest your time into it. The film could yet be a grower and be something I love in a few weeks.