Silence reviews

Sabin
Laureate
Posts: 7422
Joined: Thu Jan 02, 2003 12:52 am
Contact:

Re: Silence reviews

Postby Sabin » Tue Jan 24, 2017 12:00 am

I've been trying to figure out why Silence has barely registered in this awards cycle, and I have two conclusions: 1) Andrew Garfield, and 2) timing.

At some point among people I've spoken to, Hacksaw Ridge and Silence have gotten lumped together as the two medicine films this year starring Andrew Garfield. People feel dragged to see him in two Christ-like performances in two faith-driven films. That does enormous disservice to Scorsese's movie which more than stands on its own. The other issue is just timing. It feels out of step with what people who would worship a new Scorsese movie are looking for right now. I think if Silence had been released last year, it might be more in-step with the mood of other films in competition. With the exception of Hacksaw Ridge, the films in competition just feel cosmically different than Silence so it's sort of pushed to the periphery of the discussion.

As an atheist, I felt a disconnect between Rodrigues and Garupe's mission, and it seemed to exist more on the outside for me than any Scorsese movie in a while. But I wasn't bothered because one of my predilections is films that open up a window into the distant past. If a movie successfully does that, it will capture my attention for at least a while, like The Revenant. As it went along, I became more and more invested in Rodrigues. I disagree with Mister Tee's assessment of Garfield's performance. I think he is quite good in creating a character whose faith carries meaning. It's never abstract or platitude. I felt a gravity. (Also, pardon, I'm aware that I'm basically describing this film as a play-by-play). I'm still wrestling with Martin Scorsese's depiction of Japan and how the oppressive forces felt like Western constructs. For example, when I first saw Issei Ogata's character I can't pretend that my first thought wasn't "Yikes."

But the film evolves into a persuasive argument about the weight of faith against human suffering. My one wish for the film is that the argument evolve sooner. For too long it feels like Rodrigues as an unmovable yet anguished object until Father Ferreira reappears, which made the film slightly more tantamount to a gesture. I wasn't moved but I admired it.

I also agree with dws. I don't think you can end the movie with Rodrigues' pivotal act. You have to include the forgiveness of Kichijiro. I'm not sure you needed the minutes following but that is an amazing final shot.
"If you are marching with white nationalists, you are by definition not a very nice person. If Malala Yousafzai had taken part in that rally, you'd have to say 'Okay, I guess Malala sucks now.'" ~ John Oliver

dws1982
Tenured
Posts: 3003
Joined: Wed Jan 01, 2003 9:28 pm
Location: AL
Contact:

Re: Silence reviews

Postby dws1982 » Sat Jan 14, 2017 7:54 pm

Mister Tee wrote:And I would say the movie wasn't 5 minutes but 15 minutes too long -- once Garfield performed his pivotal act, I felt things could have been wrapped up at any point, and each new scene kicking in made me less and less happy.

SPOILERS for this who haven't seen the movie (or read the book, although I don't know if anyone is going to read it based on their reactions here)...

If it ends with his pivotal act, you've got a radically different movie. The scene between him and Kichijiro crucial--and it's where the book ends, although there's an appendix, which is turned into the Dutch trader's narration--because it A) suggests that Rodrigues still believes, which is absolutely pivotal (sorry, couldn't think of another word) to the theme that Endo was dealing with; B) it suggests that Rodrigues is able to extend personal forgiveness to Kichijiro (which suggests, on a broad thematic level, forgiveness that Christ extends to us); and C) it suggests that Rodrigues is finally beginning to understand that Christianity in non-traditional (to him) forms can be acceptable. Endo was a Catholic who identified theologically with many of the beliefs of Protestantism, and most Christians in Japan are Protestant, so that was definitely a theme of his novel. I thought Scorsese handled that ending very well, both visually and in its close use of the dialogue from the novel. I don't think the last five minutes added a lot to that, but I am interested to see where it lands with me when I see it again.

More to come. Finally got home and settled after being out for most of the day.

Mister Tee
Laureate
Posts: 6526
Joined: Wed Jan 01, 2003 2:57 pm
Location: NYC
Contact:

Re: Silence reviews

Postby Mister Tee » Sat Jan 14, 2017 4:07 pm

I can't get in line with BJ's contention that this is Scorsese's bottom achievement -- Bringing Out the Dead and Cape Fear are certainly less interesting -- but I'm kind of surprised dws responded so strongly, even though I know he's simpatico with religious-based films.

I can't say the movie was ever entirely on my wavelength -- I like urban/contemporary/skeptical, so this was pretty much the other end of the scale for me. But I was with it for the first hour, taking in the images and the simple suspense of how the two priests would make their way to their goal (Liam Neeson) without being captured. (Though I did have a problem even in this stretch: I had no idea where these priests were from. An hour or more in, someone finally said "Portugal", and I wished I'd known that from the start. ALSO: I echo BJ's issue, that Adam Driver is as far from a believable period figure as any actor alive, so his performance never worked for me.)

But once Rodrigues was captured, the movie largely stopped in its tracks for me. Like BJ, I began to flash on Unbroken, and I had to be honest with myself and not give Scorsese a pass where I had not been so generous to Jolie. This very long segment got, for me, incredibly inert, and repetitious to boot -- the dialogues on faith between Rodrigues and the inquisitor, or Rodrigues and the interpreter, seemed to cover the same ground over and over, reaching the same stalemate each time, and never struck me as having the profundity Scorsese and company seemed to imagine they possessed. I found myself, during this stretch, praying for Neeson to arrive, since I assumed that would provide some narrative variety (though the subjects he and Garfield covered were again a rehash of the debates throughout the film). Oh, and I got mortally tired of watching Kichijiro endlessly reprise his cycle of sucking up/betrayal/begging absolution -- the first time it was interesting; by the end I just wanted to wham him one.

And I would say the movie wasn't 5 minutes but 15 minutes too long -- once Garfield performed his pivotal act, I felt things could have been wrapped up at any point, and each new scene kicking in made me less and less happy. (As it happened, about at the point of Garfield's action, a young guy down the row from me began to snore loudly, something he kept up through the remainder of the film; so, perhaps that affected my take.)

I know Scorsese has genuine interest in exploring the issues of faith, and I know others (not just dws, but a number of critics) have found real depth in the film's perceptions, but, I have to repeat, I didn't find much here that engaged me. The most interesting element, which was somewhat glossed over, was the imperialist factor: that these European countries were so convinced their religion consisted of "the truth" that they felt justified in, even obligated to, the dismissal of another culture's long-established traditions of its own.

And, I have to say, whatever hope the film had of getting me connected to these deeper issues disappeared in Andrew Garfield's performance, which I can only describe as callow. Garfield seemed terrific in his early films (Boy A, Social Network) and 99 Homes, but far too often he just comes off as a lightweight. I think this film needed someone like William Hurt in his prime, to convey an intellect and existential struggle. I got none of that from Garfield.

The film did, often, look great. Especially in the early scenes with their swirling fog (this film was to fog what Lawrence of Arabia was to sand, or Zhivago to snow).

To summarize: I don't think Scorsese is capable of making a fully bad/uninteresting film. But I don't think he's got a story here that reached out to me, and, while the film wasn't a pure endurance test, it didn't have enough engaging content to hold me for its rather excessive length.

The Original BJ
Emeritus
Posts: 4222
Joined: Mon Apr 28, 2003 8:49 pm

Re: Silence reviews

Postby The Original BJ » Sat Jan 14, 2017 12:17 am

dws1982 wrote:We're basically at polar opposites on this one. To me it's not just the movie of the year, but easily my favorite Scorsese film.


I actually had a hunch that you would be a big fan. I'd love to read your thoughts whenever you find the time.

More than any movie this year, this one provokes the dual response of "I owe it to the filmmaker to give that one another try" and "How could I imagine ever sitting through that one again?" Time will only tell which side will win out!

dws1982
Tenured
Posts: 3003
Joined: Wed Jan 01, 2003 9:28 pm
Location: AL
Contact:

Re: Silence reviews

Postby dws1982 » Fri Jan 13, 2017 11:14 pm

We're basically at polar opposites on this one. To me it's not just the movie of the year, but easily my favorite Scorsese film. Probably would've ended it about five minutes earlier, on what was a very moving scene and image, and where Garfield's character is saying what is more-or-less the final lines of the book. But that's a small thing. Maybe I can come up with more tomorrow...right now I'm just too tired (I've been up since 4:30) to put many thoughts together.

The Original BJ
Emeritus
Posts: 4222
Joined: Mon Apr 28, 2003 8:49 pm

Silence reviews

Postby The Original BJ » Thu Dec 08, 2016 7:51 pm

I haven't seen some of Scorsese's earliest films (and a good number of the docs), but this is certainly my least favorite Scorsese film I've ever sat through. Aside from some obvious thematic interests (an exploration of Catholicism, putting its protagonist through the stations of the cross), it didn't even much feel like a Scorsese film to me. For much of the movie's running time, I felt like I was right back in Unbroken, watching white men imprisoned and tortured by Japanese, in a storyline that just went on and on and on, with little in the way of the filmmaking pizzazz I've come to cherish in so many of the director's works throughout the years.

It's not as if there aren't interesting ideas here -- some of the conversations about the nature of Christianity (particularly the key Garfield/Neeson debate) feel like they could have come from a more thoughtful, compelling movie. But on the whole, I just found the narrative spine so thin, the movie's scenes of suffering so repetitive (and endless), and the movie's tone so portentous, I couldn't wait for it to be over. I even thought the movie tilted toward self-parody in parts, with its VERY SERIOUS voiceover, and at one point (the voiceover from Jesus Christ himself) I couldn't help but let out a bad laugh.

Andrew Garfield commits himself very well in a clearly emotional role, though. I don't find the work as exciting as some of his earlier performances (certainly not The Social Network or 99 Homes), but it feels like he's been building toward an Oscar nomination for some time now, and it seems like his one-two punch this year might finally put him over the top. (Haven't seen his Hacksaw Ridge work yet to have an idea which might be the better vehicle.) Liam Neeson is solid as usual but doesn't have all that big a part -- I'd be surprised if he factored into the Supporting Actor race at all. Some of the actors don't fare as well, though. I'm not sure why Adam Driver was cast in this part -- why pick a quirky oddball instead of someone with some gravitas to play a tortured priest? And LA runner-up Issey Ogata is atrocious, in one of the worst performances of the year.

I never like to root against a filmmaker showing ambition, particularly one who has given me so much pleasure in the past, but I found this mostly a slog.


Return to “2016”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest