Monday, January 16, 2017

Movie Review: SILENCE

After receiving a worrying letter from their mentor Ferreira (Liam Neeson) from Japan, Portuguese priests Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) and Garrpe (Adam Driver) embark on a journey to reach Japan in order to find their beloved colleague and help the Christians against the religious oppression perpetuating during the 1600s by the hand of the Japanese Buddhists.

I think that the best way to explain my thoughts on this film are to start by explaining my history with legendary director Martin Scorsese. Whilst I think that The Departed is a top-notch film and I find Hugo to be a really well told tale, I have rarely had the pleasure of enjoying his films. That's just how it is. From the 1970s right down to his latest efforts, I have always had a really hard time with Scorsese and I have grown to actively dislike some of his films, whilst still finding something to mine and appreciate in them.

I find that there is a common thread with what I come to dislike in his pictures. Firstly, I have always had a hard time in keeping up with his third acts, from Cape Fear to Goodfellas, I have always carried myself through to the ending forcefully and have rarely appreciated his climaxes. I have always felt them as meandering and over long, not really getting to a point. Which brings me to my biggest problem, with the exceptions listed above... I have never left a Scorsese feature with something to take with me, I've never had a payoff, his films have generally left me cold and empty, his thematic explorations have often frustrated me and given me not much to appreciate.

I once felt like this must be a coincidence, but the pattern has repeated itself too many times for it to be considered so, Silence being the confirmation and actually embodying the worst about my criticisms. This is a religious slog-fest that made me angry in its self importance and complete nonsensical length.

Now, I don't want to appear like I'm a jerk, whilst everything I said above is true I can't help but have anything but respect for Scorsese, he is a giant of cinema, his achievements are overwhelming, it just so happens that he really has a hard time in matching my taste and whilst he managed to get really on my nerves here, in particular, because of some of the thematic messages, I still find in all of his pictures a lot to appreciate.

For one, Silence has a great first half, the drama with the characters is alive and touching, the portrayal of 17th century Japan is raw and unnerving, the atmosphere that is captured is genuinely unsettling. The point of view that is established in this first half is not a religiously inflated one, what is moving about it is how we witness the hatred that man can be brought to and the contrast with the innocence in the Japanese farmers is ever so captivating.

Driver and Garfield really fuel the drama with some remarkably intense performance work that manages to not call attention to itself. Their journey is unpredictable and the recreation of the chaos and the poverty of the time really hits home. The cultural differences are explored on a visual level other than a thematic one and it makes for some really good viewing, I will fully admit that up to the hour and forty five mark I was following the drama attentively.

On a technical level the film does have some fantastic production design, but for the rest there isn't something that really stands out as being remarkable, probably a reason for which the last hour becomes so overbearingly boring.

Then comes the last hour, which shatters to pieces everything achieved before, changing perspective and escalating in melodramatic, masturbatory, religious bullsh*t with an ending that proves its aimlessness and disgusting self-importance. The drama just turns off, it evolves in a discussion that has no heads nor tails, to the point that I felt like it was contradicting itself at times. The ending is abysmal, ridiculous and trivial in a way that made me stand up and leave the cinema angrily without even waiting for the first credits which I always do.

If I am listening to a full hour of religious debate which combines ethical and moral complexities to it and I am left utterly bored and empty, there is something that is worryingly wrong about the film for me. I was lost for words, every word that was uttered was a further step down for the film, a real disgrace because for a good portion it was going for something and succeeding at it, then came the rest of the feature and made me sick with boredom and anger.

James' Score: 5/10 

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