Kyle Cubr reviews “Silence” for Cine-File Chicago

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Throughout his long and accomplished career, Martin Scorsese has incorporated religion into many of his films—be it thematically, iconographically, or overtly, as in THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST and KUNDUN. After twenty years in the making, his latest film, SILENCE, is a combination of all three. In the 16th century, a pair of Portuguese missionaries (Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver) embarks on a trip to feudal Japan to discover the whereabouts of Father Ferreira (Liam Neeson), a priest who is believed to have apostatized due to the intense persecution Christians have been subjected to in that country. SILENCE is the sort of film where one’s personal beliefs or lack thereof will surely shape the one’s reconciliation of the events transpiring on-screen. It is emotionally-tolling and psychologically-straining. Interestingly enough, it is as pro-religion as it is anti-religion. Akira Kurosawa’s influence looms large here, with RASHOMON and SEVEN SAMURAI coming quickly to mind, and Scorsese flirts with other works of Eastern cinema by paying homage to several Japanese greats. The film’s bleak tone and heavy subject matter is aided by a muted color palette before, roughly halfway through, a shift occurs and there is an explosion of color and vibrancy while still maintaining the same somber undertones. In a land where to be Christian is essentially a death sentence to many, it’s captivating and at times, a bit perplexing that Father Rodrigues (Garfield) and the other Japanese converts remain so resolute in their faith. The biggest question raised is the notion of religious truth and whether that truth can be universal to all or not. Although lacking in the subtlety found in some of his other works, Scorsese’s SILENCE is a well-crafted test in the face of hardship and one that is sure to evoke a strong reaction by all.

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