Great Movies: Silence (2016)

Silence is everything from being a meditation on faith to a deconstructed look into religious texts and stories. With this little write-up, I will try to do justice to it.


When I went into watch Martin Scorsese’s Silence, I knew it was a near three-hour film. I knew it was a decades-long passion project for the man and I was wary of all the flaws a passion project might carry with it. I knew I was walking into a film which dealt with the matter of religion and I knew about the backlash a movie like that would receive. All this, I knew. What I wasn’t prepared for however was how spellbinding the film was going to be.

Andrew Garfield puts out a performance of cinematic brilliance and the film is directed masterfully. It is Garfield’s second religiously powered film in the same year and the two characters he portrays couldn’t be more varied but are equally as compelling. The production design, hair, and makeup, the cinematography, lighting, score (or lack thereof) are all top notch which leaves the audience with a technically flawless film. Adam Driver and Liam Neeson’s accents might be a bit distracting but that is just a small nitpick. The Japanese cast more than makes up that nitpick by playing off Garfield’s Father Sebastian to near perfection. Rather than calling it slow, I would call it a methodical dive into a person’s psyche. The film plays out more like one of the great poems of yore than a prose filled narrative.


I was reminded of the story of Job and Scorsese’s own The Last Temptation of Christ when I was watching this film. Those stories and others like those resonate with me because I am one to believe you are not a man of faith unless your faith is tested. I am also one of those people who is extremely fascinated by religion in general. I use a good chunk of my time to analyze why some stories are considered gospel when compared to others and why religion is considered so essential to human existence.

I was also reminded of the persecution great scientific minds such as Copernicus and Galileo were put to because of their views of the world. This movie works as a straight story or as an allegory/metaphor for anything you want it to be. Religious texts to me have always been exactly that, story books with good morals we can put to use in our daily lives. Real faith does not mean blind trust shown towards a certain “God”, it goes far beyond that and runs deeper into our conscious and sub-conscious minds.


There are multiple scenarios presented in this film where one’s faith is put to the test. There is a whole host of suggestive dialogue and superbly etched characters who are put on screen to make the audience question themselves along with Father Sebastian. This might lead to outright hatred of the film by a certain set of people but I’d like to say “to each his own”. This film is not for everyone and I am more than willing to concede in that regard. This film has received near no ad-time or promotions and is struggling to recoup its budget and I know and can understand why that is.


There is a saying I heard when I was younger, it went as such: You do not see God, you know he exists by feeling his presence, understanding that presence and the ways it has affected you will take a lifetime. This film uses the logical conclusion that adage presents and weaves one of the most complex portrayals of faith one can watch.


One need not be Christian to truly appreciate what is being shown here, far from it. Missionaries/followers from every religious background have to put to similar tests throughout the annals of time. On a larger scale, one does not need to be a person of religion at all to appreciate the film when push comes to shove. As I mentioned earlier, the film could elicit the same emotional resonance from a person of science because people from the scientific community have been persecuted by people of religion over the course of history. The humongous amount of context, subtext and large scale ideas discussed in this film might need a much larger text to delve into in their entirety.


My personal religious beliefs notwithstanding, I know a good analysis of the concept of faith when I see it. Religion and faith might sound like the same thing but are not in my understanding of the world. True faith can be had in the absence of religion or religious imagery. Unwavering and unbroken commitment to principles of good is what form any faith. Simply speaking, the fact that Father Sebastian has moments where he shows cracks in his faith but always ends up coming back to the path he knows will lead to the salvation of many makes him a true reflection of what faith actually is compared to a person who stands headstrong in the face of loss to others. To all the more religious people out there, no one religion is right or wrong, if you are doing right by your fellow man, you are on the right side of any God you choose to believe in or any book you choose as the one for you, be it the names or the books of God, Allah, Krishna, The Sun, Zoroaster or Glycon.


I would like to believe that the final shot of a cross in the hands of Father Sebastian is an affirmation that his faith has been rewarded more than a condemnation of his adherence to a specific religion. I was glad I watched this film alone and in a near empty cinema hall because as it ended, my hands were clasped in front of my face because I recognized someone had understood the concept of faith and had taken me on a journey with him to show me his version of it and to that, the filmmaker has my undying respect.

Please LIKE, SHARE, FOLLOW and COMMENT and let me know about your experiments with religion and faith with your own personal takes after watching this film.


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