“Silence” a Dramatic Departure for Martin Scorsese
By Skip Sheffield
“Silence” is like nothing Martin Scorsese has made before. Writer-director Scorsese, a master poet of the mean streets of New York, tackles an epic historical drama, set in 17th century Japan. Scorsese, with co-writer Jay Cocks (“Gangs of New York”), adopted Shusaku Endo’s novel of faith, suffering and sacrifice.
Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver play Portuguese Catholic missionaries Rodrigues and Garrpe in the year 1633. The Japanese had been brutally persecuting, torturing and executing Christians. The Japanese are our friends now, but we forget the brutality and cruelty they are capable of. Remember Pearl Harbor?
Despite dire warnings, Rodrigues and Garrpe are smuggled into Japan under cover of fog and darkness. In addition to providing support and comfort to the remaining Christians, who have been driven into hiding, the priests are also in search of their onetime mentor, Father Ferreira (Liam Neeson), who has disappeared. With raggedy Kichijiro (Yosuko Kubozuka) as their guide, the men seek out Christians hiding in caves, woods and abandoned buildings. Eventually word gets back to the Inquisitor (Israel Ogata), a onetime Samurai turned merciless despot. It will not turn out well.
The scenery in “Silence” is stunning, but it is contrasted with images of horror and brutality. It is an ultimate test of faith for the priests, mirroring the suffering and humiliation of Jesus prior to his crucifixion. This is by far Andrew Garfield’s most challenging role to date, and he gives it his all. There are two key twists in a film almost three hours long. It may rattle staunch Christians. The sad truth of the matter is that Christians are still being persecuted and even dying for their faith, but in other parts of the world. Twenty-five years in development, “Silence” is a bittersweet memoir of Scorsese’s Catholic upbringing.