“Silence” plays like a slightly happier take on “Black Robe”. For those that haven’t seen “Black Robe”, it’s rather easy to find online or on DVD. Hunt it down, then come back to me. The film opens on real Christian persecution. Sure, the year is 1637, but it’s actual Christian persecution. The site might be new to some, but it’s been imagined and built up in the mind of your creepy Mike Pence looking neighbor. Two Jesuit priests are dispatched to recover their Jesuit colleague and try to bring him back to the flock.
Unfortunately, Japan is kinda pissed at Christian missionaries right now. They see them as Agents of the West that are dispatched to destroy their culture. While modern audiences don’t know how to handle this, Andrew Garfield’s character takes this as a call to action. Garfield’s Father Rodrigues preaches to anyone that will listen. He conducts mass, listens to confession and generally cares for his new found flocks. It’s just a shame that his travel guide sells him out and delivers him to the local government.
When an audience watches a film about religious authority meeting reserved societies, something strange happens. You’ll see viewers split between wanting to honor the law of the land and those that want to see a crushing authority get crippled. Outside of said theater, these roles usually change. But, it’s that guttural response to injustice that always captures my interest. The same can be seen in how Adam Driver and Andrew Garfield’s characters face the offer to apostatize. Driver goes to his death for his religion, but Garfield keeps hesitating.
The rest of the film follows Garfield’s torture and fight to keep the faith. Whether it’s pits of feces, ear bleedings or listening to Japanese villagers get tortured, Garfield hangs on. But, the inevitable always comes. While Garfield broke over “snoring”, the truth behind his breaking remains for us all. Regardless of what you are promised or believe, your internal nature to survive will always kick in. It’s why drowning victims fight and it’s why the hopeless never truly give up.
“Silence” is about coming to terms with the very human idea of the “self” before the “community”. The last minute of the movie feels like a cop out to me, but the truth of what Scorsese and Jay Cocks were laying down remains. Humans break. They don’t always break when expected or by fixed stimuli, but they do break. Assigning yourself to be close to godliness is a mistake, as it’s forgetting what makes you a person. “Silence” is probably the greatest film I’ve seen in recent years about realizing that everyone fails, not matter how hard you try.
- 2 hrs and 41 mins