Silence is a film of two contrasting parallels that run from its opening shot in Feudal Japan, to it’s closing glimpse into a raging fire. On the one hand, Silence is an astonishingly raw look at faith and the persecution of Christians in 17th Century Japan. The camera work and lighting are incredible and the sheer defiance portrayed by Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) despite overwhelming obstacles elevates this film to a whole new level. It’s just such a pity that the overlong, slow paced drama takes so long to get going and when it does, it never picks up to more than a snail’s pace that hurts the overall effect.
The story follows two Portuguese Priests, Rodrigues and Garupe (Adam Driver) who travel to Japan in search of fellow Priest, Ferreira (Liam Neeson). Rumoured to have given up his faith in Christianity and committed apostasy, the two Priests travel to Japan. What follows is a little under 2 and a half hours of the two Priests witnessing first hand the punishment given to those who follow the Christian faith in Japan. Rodrigues questions his own faith numerous times and his inner monologues are shown in voice-over format with varying degrees of success.
The story is a good one though and there is a really good narrative at play here into what it means to be a Christian and how committed you must be in the face of such brutal cruelty to remain true to your beliefs. Rodrigues absolutely shines here in his defiance and unlike Garfield’s previous outfit in Hacksaw Ridge who wholeheartedly believed in God no matter what, this role allows him to really breathe as an actor with some inner conflict that play out really well on screen.
When Silence is good, it’s really damn good – the film transports you to another world. Each character is well defined, well rounded and most importantly, well written. This is a film made with a real love and passion for this subject matter and the serious work done in making sure everything looks believably archaic reinforces this completely.
Unfortunately, Silence is just so damn boring at times. Some of the scenes are unnecessarily long or seem drawn out just for the sake of it and with a slew of other good films released around the Oscar months, its easy to see how Silence was overlooked. Its subject matter is also one that isn’t always explored in such a way and some viewers, especially those that hold their faith in such high regard, might find this an uncomfortable watch.
Having said all of that, if you can persevere with Silence then its worth watching. It won’t be for everyone and its slow pace will turn a lot of people away but for those who can stick with it, it’s a beautiful historical drama made with care and a great insight into what it means to have faith in something despite overwhelming obstacles standing in your way.