Sunday, March 26, 2017

Video review: "Silence"

“Silence” didn’t make my list of the Top 10 films of 2016, but only because I didn’t see it in time. Director Martin Scorsese and the studio didn’t push it during the awards cycle, declining even to show it to regional critic groups. After watching it, I get the sense this is an intensely personal movie for Scorsese, who also co-wrote the screenplay with Jay Cocks, based on the historical novel by Shūsaku Endō.

Sometimes, we take such pride in the things most precious to us that it doesn’t matter to us if others treasure it as much.

Set in 17th century Japan, “Silence” stars Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver as young Jesuit priests who have come in search of their mentor, Father Ferreira (Liam Neeson), who has reportedly committed apostasy, or publicly renouncing his faith. This was at a time when the feudal leaders of Japan brutally put down any attempt to spread Christianity across the island, including torture, hanging and beheading.

The photography is breathtakingly beautiful -- cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto deservedly earned the film’s sole Academy Award nomination. And the performances by the supporting cast, mostly Japanese actors we’ve never heard of, are full of grace and truth. I was especially impressed with Shinya Tsukamoto as a simple farmer filled with unseen strength.

Ultimately it’s Andrew Garfield’s movie, though. His performance as Rodrigues is as fully fleshed out as anything you’ll see on a screen. A deeply religious man filled with compassion but also not a little vanity, he finds himself confronted with terrible choices between his faith in God and the teachings of the church that interprets that faith.

Most moviegoers aren’t searching for deep, slow contemplations on religious oppression in a far-flung land four centuries ago. But if you’re willing to invest a little faith in me, I think my recommendation for “Silence” -- the highest I can give -- will not lead you astray.

Unsurprisingly, bonus features for this film are rather sparse, consisting entirely of a making-of documentary, “Martin Scorsese’s Journey into Silence,” which comes on the Blu-ray edition. The DVD contains no extra material.



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