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
I think Silence’s visual style is cinematically staggering and one of the most strikingly beautiful films of 2016. I think it’s enough to solidify Silence as something more than a simple R. It’s one of the most awe-inspiring films in Scorsese’s career.
And this video doesn’t even cover the full beauty of the film in my opinion.
@Cinephile– “staggering”? hmm. Disagree here– staggering feels strong. That video may not cover the full beauty but it is also under 3 minutes long and I’d cut out at least half of it if I were showing impressive cinematic shots
@Drake– I agree that not ALL of the shots showcased are examples of staggering mise-en-scene beauty but I’d have to argue that even those ones still feature visual power. I mean, the cinematic aesthetic is not only made by specific shots right ? It must feature (even if we don’t have a mindblowing composition) a visual prowess/interest in the frame in general. I’d argue that Silence sustains a superb visual interest for all of the runtime. I’d say, in contrary, something like The Departed doesn’t have the visual atmosphere Silence showcases here, it’s more flat. I count very much as I said if a movie, even if it isn’t the stunning shot that drops your jaw, showcases visual interest even in the most simple of shots. Anyway, I don’t consider Silence a decade defining work, but I either can’t think of many films from 2016 that feature visual style of this order. And again, if you’d cut out half of the shots, those that remain doesn’t count for more than a simple R?
@Cinephile– Fair, but 90 seconds of nice establishing exterior on-location shots doesn’t do it either. I just saw this one here in November during my Scorsese study so I’ll let the page speak for itself here– it just isn’t there in the text- but anyways, I’d get to 10 films easily from 2016 that just have more going on. I just saw The Departed, too. http://thecinemaarchives.com/2019/11/01/the-departed-2006-scorsese-2/ There’s a pervading visual motif in The Departed that’s absent here– not to mention an active camera, the Third Man funeral shot, the Nicholson as Satan in red, the split diopter.
@Drake– Yes, probably I shouldn’t have mentioned The Departed. I also have it superior to Silence.
“Fair, but 90 seconds of nice establishing exterior on-location shots doesn’t do it either”. I’d agree with this if I claimed Silence is a capital “M” Masterpiece, so it needs more going on to be one.
But I’m curious, what are the 10 films from 2016 that you think easily have more going on ? Are they all the films in your top 10 of the year ?
@Cinephile- here’s 14 really quick— a few are probably debatable, obviously most of these are slam dunks
Hell or High Water
La La Land
Manchester By the Sea
The Lost City of Z
The Neon Demon
@Drake– All examples are good and very welcome. I recognize La La Land, The Neon Demon, The Handmaiden probably as more beautiful.
Then, films like Moonlight, Arrival I’d say are tied with Silence.
Something like American Honey and The Lost City of Z are close.
I’d say Silence is superior to the others that remain.
I’m talking here specifically about visual beauty, I’m not counting form or narrative.
The only film from 2016 I’m sure it’s better is La La Land, right now I have Arrival, Moonlight and Paterson ahead and Silence sitting #5 for 2016.
I don’t know maybe I’m wrong but Silence’s aesthetic for now seems to be truly impressive.
@Cinephile- thanks for sharing. I like where the consensus has Silence here- 15-20th of 2016.
*Seems to be truly impressive for me, personally.