Faith is a topic Martin Scorsese can't quite shake, courting controversy with complex films like The Last Temptation of Christ (1988) and Kindun (1997). And now he has adapted the Shusaku Endo novel into this profound exploration of religion. As seen through the eyes of a 17th century Jesuit priest in Japan, it's a dark, contemplative film that sometimes feels a bit too murky for its own good. But it also has bracing insight into our need to believe.
At the centre of the story is the disappearance of Father Ferreira (Liam Neeson) as Japan cracks down on foreign religions in 1640, brutally persecuting local converts. Back in Portugal, two of Ferreira's proteges, Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) and Garrpe (Adam Driver), volunteer to go in search of him. But the journey is dangerous, requiring them to trust exiled Japanese drunk Kichijiro (Yosuke Kubozuka) to sneak them into a rural village near Nagasaki. There they find an underground group of devout Catholics who are hiding from the cruel Inquisitor Inoue (Issei Ogata). After they split up to search for Ferreira, Rodrigues is captured by Inoue and interrogated by his interpreter (Tadanobu Asano), who is determined to show him that Christianity can never take root in Japan.
The film has an eerie resonance in today's divisive global climate, where everyone seems determined to protect their own culture from any outside influence, especially a religion that seems to run counter to long-held traditions. But the film's deeper themes explore the idea that we all have a yearning to understand the world and our existence in a way that makes sense to us. So debating the relative benefits of Christianity and Buddhism is actually beside the point. When the movie lets these ideas simmer under the surface, it has real power, especially in Rodrigues' experiences, which are gruelling both physically and emotionally.
Continue reading: Silence Review
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