Sunday, January 7, 2018

Netflix & Chill #35: Silence

Watched On: Amazon Prime
Released: 2016
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver, Tadanobu Asano, Ciaran Hinds, Liam Neeson
Rotten Tomatoes: 84%
Pick: Mine

Silence is a beautiful adaptation of a beautiful, moving book of the same name by Shusaku Endo. It opens with a Jesuit Priest, Father Ferreira (Liam Neeson) witnessing the torture of both his fellow priests and then the Japanese converts he has been trying to bring Christianity too. He seems rooted to the spot an unable to help any of them in anyway, only to describe the horrors that he is witnessing.

The movie then cuts to a few years later at a church in Macau, where Father Valignano (Ciaran Hinds) receives word that Father Ferreira has renounced his faith after undergoing the torture of the pit in Nagasaki. His students Father Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) and Father Garupe (Adam Driver) persuade Father Valignano that they should go and find out the truth of what has happened to Father Ferreira. Valignano is dubious at first, as Japan is incredibly dangerous for Christians at the present time, but the two young priests persuade him and, with the help of an alcoholic Japanese refugee named Kichijiro (Yosuke Kubozuka) they set out for Japan.

Arriving in Japan, the Priests arrive at the village of Tomogi, where they find the Christian populations have been driven underground. When the authorities come looking for the Christians, they subject them to a religious test by making them trample on a fumie, a carved image of crucifix- those that refuse to do so are outed as Christians and imprisoned and tortured. The villagers, at the instruction of the Priests all trample- but the authorities then demand that they spit on a crucifix and call the Virgin Mary a whore and when they refuse, the three villagers are martyred. They are tied to crosses by the ocean shore and the tide eventually drowns them. Then, the bodies are retrieved and burned to prevent a Christian burial. Rodrigues and Garupe, realizing that their presence has put the villagers in danger, split up and go their separate ways.

Garupe heads for Hirado Island, while Rodrigues goes to Goto Island to find the last place where Ferreira lived, only to find it destroyed. Kichijiro finds him there and betrays him and he is taken to Nagasaki and imprisoned with other Japanese converts. The prisoners are put through the test of the fumie and all refuse to trample and then one of them is beheaded. Kichijiro (also imprisoned) is then brought out and he tramples eagerly and is released. Then Rodrigues is taken to a shoreline, where he sees Father Garupe and three prisoners approaching in the distance. The three prisoners are taken offshore in a small boat and are bound and one by one thrown into the sea in an attempt to get Garupe to renounce his faith. He refuses and drowns trying to rescue the last prisoner, while Rodrigues watches, restrained and helpless to do anything.

At long last, Father Rodrigues is taken to meet Ferreira. He tells Rodrigues that he renounced his faith under torture and has become convinced after 15 years in the country that Christianity is futile in Japan. Rodrigues denies this, but Ferreira insists. That night, Rodrigues hears the sound of five Christians being tortured. Ferreira tells him then that they have already renounced their faith- the authorities want Rodrigues to renounce his faith, which will end their suffering. He looks upon the fumie and hears an inner voice of Christ giving him permission to trample which he does.

The movie then changes points of view and a Dutch clerk narrates his experiences with the Apostate Priests over the next few years. The Japanese authorities use them to determine which objects are religious and which aren't and eventually Ferreira and then years later, Rodrigues die. His body is prepared for burial in a Buddhist manner and as the flames begin to consume his coffin, the camera zooms in and we see the crudely made crucifix he was given when he first arrived in Japan, tucked into the palm of his hand.

This movie has been a passion project for Martin Scorsese for nearly a quarter of a century and you can see why. This is a beautifully crafted movie and wonderful adaptation of an amazing book. Questions of faith, morality and the trials of your faith in turbulent times are themes that are all explored here and the suffering of the Japanese martyrs is especially powerful and raw to watch. Scorsese also plays with the concept of silence itself- the movie opens to the sounds of quiet and when Rodrigues hears the voice of Christ telling him to trample, the movie goes dead quiet, save for that voice. There are subtle touches that amplify the power of the movie throughout.

Overall: An incredible adaptation of an incredible book, Scorsese has assembled an excellent cast to bring his passion project to life. This was a movie worth waiting a quarter of a century for. **** out of ****.

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