The Catholic world has long been talking about Martin Scorsese’s “Silence,” his three-decade, passion-project movie version of the 1966 novel by Japanese writer Shusaku Endo.
It follows two Jesuit missionary priests (played in the movie by Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver) who go to 17th-century Japan in search of a Jesuit mentor (Liam Neeson), who is rumored to have renounced his faith and gone into the service of the government — which he indeed has.
The Christians of Japan are suffering terrible, unspeakably cruel persecutions. The tyrannical rulers subject the priests to torture themselves, and then force them to endure the torture of others, to pressure them to publicly renounce Christ.
These things are boldly portrayed, but then the movie falters.
From The New Yorker:
The cruelties that Rodrigues and Garrupe encounter in Japan reach to the core of Scorsese’s cinematic identity. These afflictions conjure bitter, wild, almost absurd ironies regarding faith and devotion that cast a strange, self-mocking glint over his entire career. Adapted from a 1966 novel by Shusaku Endo, “Silence” approaches grave philosophical, political, and psychological matters unflinchingly. It rises to a harrowing crescendo of overlapping strains of agony—physical and emotional, spiritual and moral—that is among the strangest, most intricately tangled of all of Scorsese’s creations.
Yet it takes two hours for Scorsese to reach that inspired height. Until that point, the movie suffers from literary-ism, a mode of direction that illustrates a set of events with a relentlessly expository, nearly impersonal tone.
Despite great anticipation before and after its Christmas release, and some very good reviews, “Silence” has no awards momentum.
From the New York Post:
This week, the film got completely left off the list of BAFTA nominations. The Producer’s Guild of America didn’t give it one of its ten nominations for its equivalent of Best Picture. (Last year seven of the nine PGA nominees went on to Oscar nominations for Best Picture.)
“Silence” was also shut out at the SAG awards and the Golden Globes. It got the cold shoulder from the American Cinema editors. It didn’t get a screenplay nomination from the Writer’s Guild of America. It won zilch from the New York Film Critics Circle, the Los Angeles Film Critics Circle and the National Society of Film Critics.
There are hundreds of movie awards being given out this season. But so far the one film that was set to dominate them has captured only a measly Best Adapted Screenplay honor from the National Board of Review.
A lot of the reviews, especially the faith ones, praised the film’s ambiguities and subtleties, but Los Angeles Auxiliary Bishop Robert Barron is having none of that. He thinks these aspects of the films not only support the attitude of the 17th-century Japanese cultural elites towards the threat of the Faith, and that the movie does the same for the cultural elites today.
You can click here to read what he had to say about the film, but here he is in person, pulling no punches in support of the brave Japanese martyrs:
Images: Courtesy Paramount Pictures