When Martin Scorsese finally announced he would be directing Silence, I was hesitant to dive into it right away. Such a large leap, going from The Wolf of Wall Street, a biopic of stockbrokers, shady dealings and drug abuse to Silence, a distressed musing on historic religious disputes. Rich in its history and dedicated to telling its story in as much detail as possible, Silence is a marvellous film that highlights some of Scorsese’s finest work.
The compassion on display in the performances of leading men Adam Driver and Andrew Garfield is immense. With a dedication to spreading the word of Christianity, their morals and faith are questioned as Francisco Garupe (Driver) and Sebastião Rodrigues (Garfield) push on to find Cristóvão Ferreira (Liam Neeson), a Portuguese missionary. It’s a beautiful story, with Scorsese’s direction focused completely on the faith and struggle that Garupe and Rodrigues face. Symbolism and its importance within oppressed religious groups take centre stage from time to time, it drives the narrative rather well alongside a stellar performance from Garfield. This is perhaps his best performance to date, a monumental achievement that shows a slow drip into insanity alongside a wholehearted belief in the just cause of his actions.
A great mixture of strong performances and engaging dialogue make for a film that will have no trouble hooking its audience in. Scorsese and his cast replicate this period as best they can, and there are rather fruitful results on display throughout. For such a lengthy film, I can do nothing but credit the great pacing on display. We learn along the way, the many pitfalls that test the faith of our leading characters are paved masterfully. Cinematography from frequent Scorsese collaborator Rodrigo Prieto makes for some beautiful scenes, wide shots galore in a film that has as much passion behind the camera as it does in front of it.
I’d go out on a limb and say this is Scorsese’s most unique work. Not his most refined or polished, but certainly completely different to the thrillers and gangsters he brought to the screen successfully for decades. It’s amazing to see that he does indeed have the range available to him to direct us through a period piece, one that mediates on religious oppression. He did so before in The Last Temptation of Christ, but Silence feels bigger and far more interesting in every way imaginable. It feels grandiose, its breath-taking cinematography is littered with the beauty of the 17th-century landscape he looks to bring to life.
Perhaps the most spiritual film Scorsese has made to date, or at least one of them anyway. I’d by no means call myself religious or spiritual, solely because I’ve never given it much thought. I went into Silence expecting an apt historical revision of a period of history that doesn’t get much mainstream adaptation. It’s an amicable experience for those who do follow a denomination, and for those who don’t. A slice of history presented to us by one of the most acclaimed directors in modern memory, Silence bills itself with prominent stars who give it their all in a beautiful, deep film.