Silence

Film Score: No Score-sese

I mean it, this film is getting nothing.

Silence is The Revenant with all the joy sucked out. It was directed by Martin Scorsese and stars Adam Driver and Andrew Garfield as Padre Garupe and Padre Rodrigues, 17th Century Jesuits on a quest to find their mentor, Padre Ferreira, in feudal Japan. They should have stayed in their monastery, for my sake.

I can stand a bad film like most people stomach a busy commuter train. It is an uncomfortable experience, but you try to zone out, checking your phone for notifications from friends you don’t have, and pray that things don’t get worse. Silence falls into the precipice where only terrible films dwell, taking sheer will and a firm grip on the armchair to not leave in disgust. Other people left quicker than Garfield’s tears from his eyes, leaving the cinema screen’s population to dwindle from a healthy 6 to half with another 50 minutes to go.

Ignoring the poorly feigned Portuguese accents of Driver and Garfield, we see the Jesuits, in search of their lost teacher, arrive in feudal Japan. This early scene, with mist swirling round a ramshackle village and dangerous cliffs, swallowing up the missionaries as the land ashore, invoked the land to be alien and hostile, reminiscent of Apocalypse Now. Instead of Driver and Garfield pressing on to find their Colonel Kurtz, fallen priest Ferreira, they become a bumbling pair of wrecks. Silence had potential in this one scene, but is a worse film because it falls below the expectations it creates and what is expected from Scorsese.

The plot followed an arc of crying, hiding, foetal positions, torture and more crying. Beginning slowly, the pace grinds to a tortuous trickling chain of conversations nestled between walking scenes in the Japanese countryside which were better suited to a See Japan video. I bore little sympathy for the Jesuits, or the Japanese, both were arrogant zealots in their own way, willing to shed innocent blood for their own cause. At least the Japanese nobles were far more honest, and did not shed tears. The conclusion was needless exposition lasting twenty draining minutes. Scorsese should have left that section on the cutting room floor. The film is supposed to be about the Christian meaning of finding faith through suffering.  The only people who suffer in Silence are the audience, and my faith in Scorcese was shaken.

Driver does a good job in a bad role. Watching Driver alongside Garfield, the film would have fared better if they had switched the two. Silence’s third act was a dull ribbon of montages between events and Garfield’s tears which snuffs out any remaining sympathy for the character. Neeson reprises Qui-Gon Jinn, with Jar Jar’s presence being replaced by actual torture.

Rogerebert.com and The Guardian have given Silence more favourable reviews, with Rogerebert.com lauding Silence as ‘a monumental work, and a punshing one’. Film, like literature, has to have a story. It may be an artistic triumph which punishes the audience, but if it fails to deliver a good story, it is still a failure. Reading reviews for Silence reminds me why I wanted to set up this blog. There is a disconnect between the wants of the film critic and the audience. Critics scour for originality and value ambition, while the audience just want a good story. If ordinary viewers wanted anything else, half of my fellow audience would not have left Silence.

Plot is my main focus in my reviews, because in the end, if you are not some art or film graduate, you are not going to the hottest avant-garde opus.

Target audience: 17th century Jesuits planning a visit to Japan and no-one else.

By Saul Shimmin

For the trailer, see below:

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