Historical dramas too often sacrifice substance for spectacle. ‘Silence’ however is an altogether deeper affair; a visceral, thought provoking look at the nature of religion and the clash of cultures.
In the seventeenth century, two Jesuit missionaries travel to Shogunate Japan, where Christianity has been outlawed, in search of their missing mentor who is rumoured to have abandoned the faith.
Andrew Garfield gives a very capable lead performance as the soft-spoken Father Rodrigues, subtly capturing the arrogance behind his character’s piety the drawn-out trauma of his crisis of faith. This supporting cast is also outstanding, with particular plaudits due to Tadanobu Asano as the Interpreter, Issei Ogata as the sinister, slippery Inquisitor and Liam Neeson as the jaded Father Ferreira.
The film is strikingly shot, and the carefully considered camera-work is what gives many scenes their poignancy. So too does the skilful use of silence, which often lends a greater intensity to a scene than a traditional score might.
At two hours forty minutes, it’s undeniably hard-going, and while this arguably reflects the film’s contemplative nature, it would nevertheless benefit from a little pruning. That said though, it is still a well-crafted piece of cinema and definitely worth the effort.