Cast: Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver, Liam Neeson, Ciaran Hinds, Tadanobu Asano
Director: Martin Scorsese
Rating: Two stars
There are some films whose intention is so noble that they overpower the entire thing: the plot, the performance, and everything in between. ‘Silence’ is one of those.
Based on a 60s novel which tells the tale two 17th century Portuguese Jesuit priests (Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver) who go to Japan in search of their missing mentor. When they reach, they find a place roiled by violence, and as they set out to do the bidding of their faith and heart, they encounter private and public demons.
It is a gorgeous looking film, and Liam Neeson turns in a harrowing performance, which talks to Martin Scorsese’s long-standing involvement, visible even in his most populist works, in exploring the fragile connections between piety and doubt.
Its opening scene is magnificent, sheets of water falling from a height, craggy cliffs and mist. But we have no time to savour nature’s glories because our attention is turned towards man’s beastliness: naked believers, tied to makeshift stakes, are being tortured, and the missing priest is forced to see this, till he can’t bear it any more and turns his back on his God. Or does he?
The rest of the film tracks Garfield and Driver communicating with the inhabitants of a village, trying to spread the gospel, while, of course, keeping the search on. Most of it appears clunky, with Driver being just a tad more convincing that Garfield, but both come off stilted.
But except for the odd moment or two, it left me curiously unmoved, coming off more as an inert, far too-long (2 hours 40), repetitive costume drama. Clearly, intention does not always make for a persuasive film.