Silence (2016) – The Swamp of Uncertainty

Martin Scorsese, the master of the finely tuned gangster flick; whether it is the mean streets or wall street, he goes taps into the audiences psyche; concocts frenetic scenarios with fast paced scenes that accentuate the presented narrative.

There are movies of his, which go outside his usual presentations (The Age of Innocence, Shutter Island, and Hugo), show the same finesse, style, and attention to detail that has grown with age. Silence, in its grandeur and beauty is reminiscent to Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu’s The Revenant. It is similar in being shot exclusively outside and takes advantage of the natural surroundings to provide visual aesthetics of authenticity. A time forgotten, when the light of the world, space, and torches dictated the movements and planning of the groups living in the shadow; whose faith and practices carry a heavy cross, forsaken by an isolation layered in depth.

Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) and Garupe (Adam Driver), two Jesuit priests are sent to find Father Ferreira (Liam Neeson); they embark upon a journey to the land of the rising sun, which has built itself into an isolationist culture. It is made apparent that their presence is unwelcomed, that Japan has conflicting interests when it comes to western influences and the way it could divide the nation. The main samurai, Inoue (Issei Ogata), provides a point regarding language syntax and challenging the priests’ expectations converting the villages along Japan. That what Ferreira and the other priests had taught the villages was being translated from a literal sense (i.e. “Son” and “sun”). Rodrigues is reunited with Ferreira, who, looks unequivocally like Qui-Gon Jinn, further unwraps the words of Inoue; that Japan as a whole is not ready for the concept of Christianity, the analogy of Japan as a swamp is floated in the movie, meaning that the roots of Christianity cannot take hold due to Japan being as isolationist as it is; context and meaning is misconstrued to the point where Rodrigues and Garupe are seen as the saviors to the villages. They are tangible, the bridge between the word and the newfound Christian spirituality consumed by the villagers in search of something to alleviate them of their sins and misfortunes. The hierarchy of Japan realized the problems this could cause and decided to handle it in a curt and aggressive manner.

The main theme/narrative of the movie resonated with me in a sense of past experience. Rodrigues and Garupe are, in their collective experience, not doing anything wrong. They are not forcing faith onto the villagers, they are coming up to them to be absolved of their sins. However, the priests know that as long as they are there the people will be subjected to horrendous torture. The dynamic of thought, practice, and perspective is flipped around when Inoue asks Rodrigues, legitimately, what would Jesus do if he saw his followers being tortured in front of him? Inoue in a twist of perspective understands the initial message of Jesus, He would have sacrificed his pride and well-being over the pain and suffering of His followers. Is the message lessened when principle becomes the driving factor over sacrifice? The people who worshipped the Jesuits had a life that was not made better because of their faith, the foundation was not yet set to yield fruitful results of their sacrifice in such an environment. The Catholic Church had not yet reached the scope of influence that was necessary to carry out in a land such as Japan; the lack of fortified roots for the faith to take hold ended up besting the priests.

Overall, this somber, docile experience had enough drama and turmoil to keep the narrative interesting, with spectacular scenery that set a pristine atmosphere. However, one thing that bugged me about Silence was the payoff and ultimate lesson at the end of the movie. It was abrupt to a degree that took me out of the movie and questioned the point being made; was it worth it this whole time to live a life after committing the first part of it to a doctrine and faith that does not go away easily. Regardless, if you are looking for a movie to break up the cacophony of our current societal climate; to cleanse your palette of the outrage that multiplies daily, Silence, is deserved.

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