An intellectual deliberation on sin, doubt, yes- God’s silence, persecution and cruelty/evil
In one of the opening scenes with Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver and Ciarán Hinds there’s a very nice shot of an empty cathedral and the symmetry in the frame of the hall behind them
So there’s the start of something very strong visual/formally here with the overhead “God’s eye view” shot. There’s one of the grey stairs (a stunner, here below) and another one later overhead of the boat going to Japan. It’s such a strong start. And then it drops off and the next one of these is nearly 2 hours later—an overhead shot of Garfield in his prison cell. It’s really unfortunate Scorsese didn’t carry this shot through—it would change the grade for the film
The color choices here are distinct and should be applauded- black, gray, washed out off-white. It’s very good work. The smoke/fog pouring out from many of the scenes has an effect too.
The performances are notable. Yôsuke Kubozuka plays a tough and pivotal small role and comes off very well. His character, Kichijiro, is almost like a Gollum to Garfield’s Frodo. It’s a personification with some of Scorsese’s issues with confession going back to some of the words from Keitel’s Charlie in Mean Streets. Scorsese really wants punishment—the confession seems like a loophole. Adam Driver is good as always in his few scenes- massive weight-loss. I think it’s telling that Garfield, in a lead in a Scorsese film, doesn’t come away with one of the best performances of 2016. He’s not bad—but not one of the best of the year.
Rare for Scorsese. Long quiet stretches stylistically. And it’s not about flash. There’s not the production design or composition triumph here like we’d have in Hugo or the editing triumph (amongst other things) in Age of Innocence
Scorsese viewed Silence as a passion project that took decades to write an eventually get off the ground. It is overtly religious in material as well (I’d argue all of his work is religious) like The Last Temptation of Christ. Gangs of New York is a long-gestated passion project as well. My theory here is that because of how important the source material is—he almost subjugates his style to it—the actual content (as opposed to film style)—Scorsese is held hostage or contained a little by these films. They’re all great films- but clearly 3 of his weakest and less accomplished cinematically.
Fascinating theological conversations abound. The scene with Liam Neeson towards the end. The debates between Garfield and the inquisitor
There is much in common thematically with Last Temptation for sure including the strong cases made for Neeson against Christianity. Similar to the very last temptation of Christ on the cross in the 1988 film
Switches to the Dutch trader voice-over about 140 minutes in after most of the film is Garfield’s voice over (mostly in letters but we get inner monologue too) a nice split diopter shot at 145 or so with Garfield and his Japanese family in the background