Martin Scorsese once said, ‘My whole life has been movies and religion. That’s it. Nothing else.’ Raised a Catholic, the director, known for films like Goodfellas and The Wolf of Wall Street, spent a year of his childhood in a preparatory seminary before getting kicked out. Since then he has grappled with religion and spirituality with films such as Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, Mean Streets and The Last Temptation of Christ. His latest work, Silence, is his most introspective and thoughtful film on the subject.
Based on the novel by Shusaku Endo, Silence is set in 17th century Japan after the Shimabara Rebellion, which saw masterless samurais and Catholic peasants revolt against their lords over taxation. Suspecting that European Catholics had a hand in the failed uprising, the government enforced a strict ban on Christianity across the country.
Endo’s story follows two Portuguese Jesuit priests (Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver) who travel to Japan in search of their mentor (Liam Neeson) after learning that he has renounced his belief under torture. What follows is a harrowing journey that tests the two men’s faith and what they’re willing to endure in its name.
A film that Scorsese calls his ‘never-ending pilgrimage’ into religion, Silence is a sombre drama that eschews his usual stylistic flair. It’s a slow-moving work that asks deep philosophical questions: how important is the expression of your faith? How can God remain a silent witness to the suffering of his followers? Scorsese even replaces a traditional score with ambient sounds, opening up a mental space for viewers to ponder these painful questions.
Silence the novel was influenced by the stigma Endo experienced as a Catholic growing up in Japan in the 1930s and ’40s, but its themes are relevant to believers of any religion today and in numerous places around the world. It’s far from Scorsese’s most entertaining film, but Silence will be remembered as one of his best and most important works.
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Restless Traveller Sydrome
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Altitude-Adjusted Lachrymosity Syndrome
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Fear of Missing Out
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