Friday, May 12, 2017

Silence: A Powerful Story Well Told By a Master Storyteller

Movie Review: Silence (2016)
Version: Library Borrow

For some time I had heard about the film Silence and how powerful a story it is. I have waited in anticipation of seeing what has been said to be a great film and have finally gotten to see it. I wasn't disappointed.

Silence is the story of two Jesuit priests who take on the mission of tracking down a fellow Jesuit lost in the turbulent cultural wiles of 17th century Japan. European Catholics have been rejected by the Buddhist Japanese government, pursued, prosecuted, tortured, and even killed to rid the island of what is deemed as a dangerous cult. The people of Japan who have converted to Christianity practice their faith in fear for their lives, praying in seclusion. Any one town is unaware whether there are other Christians in any other town, all pursued by Japan's Inquisitor, who seems to stamp out the religion through repression and apostasy (renunciation of faith). Adam Driver and Andrew Garfield play the two priests who come in search of the last known priest in Japan, rumored to have renounced Christ and taken on a wife and children. They face personal hardship and danger, but worse still, they pose a danger to the Christians they encounter in their journey, who revel in the return of priests and hide them in their community.

Silence was directed by Martin Scorsese, a master storyteller in film. His passion for the story is apparent in the hard work taken to film difficult scenes of crucifixions in the sea, tortures on the land, the selfless sacrifices taken on by the priests who deny themselves to make this journey, and the deep fears of the simple people who live in the small fishing villages. The lighting is moody but integral to setting the heavy tone of the story. The scenery is simple but important to establishing the time in which the story takes place and difficulty of making this journey. The characters have great depth, from the two priests driven by their faith to seek truth, to the Inquisitor who is driven to eliminate the threat they pose to his land, to the fallen priest they seek to find.

It can be a difficult film to watch, as the Inquisitor seeks to expose Christians and force them to renounce their faith or suffer horrible punishments. In fact, it can be brutal to watch. Battling the will of the priests, the Inquisitor uses mind games, which can be equally brutal. But this is the truth of the story, and Scorsese doesn't shy away from it -- any of it.

I was expecting a different outcome. However, Scorsese treats that outcome with compassion, and that's the redeeming quality of Silence. This is a film about faith, the difficulty of living it in troubled times, and God's compassion when we sometimes fall short. It was a brilliant visual treatment of that journey.

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