Jan 15, 2017

Posted by in Featured, Reviews | 2 Comments

Movie Review: Silence




This is not a movie I think I would have noticed nor gone to see if my friend Steph had not approached me to see it with her. She actually approached a group of us, and after a failed attempt to see it due to missing the information on what day it would be showing (it was a limited release we found out), we finally saw it Friday.

Lets start with the trailer:


So, as the trailer shows, it is a movie based around the purge of Christianity from Japan, and two Catholic Priests who head into a very dangerous place for them at that time to look for one of their own. It’s a movie about the trials they will face as men of the cloth in a land that does not greet them with warmth any longer.

What first grabbed me about this movie was that it is set in historic Japan. I am enamored with Japan’s history, and her customs and traditions. This leads me to want to consume as much knowledge as I can about her, and while I know this is not a historical film, it is a film based off an event that happened in history, so it piques my interest.

As fun as it is to watch movies in the theater, I honestly don’t recommend it for this one. First and foremost, it’s almost three hours long. So if you’re like me, and have a small bladder, that’s a long movie to make it through without a break (unless you don’t eat or drink, which is how I did it). More importantly though, this movie relies heavily on the use of sound as a compelling element–or rather the lack thereof. Martin Scorsese did an amazing job of his use of silence to actually make it feel oppressive, and this effect can be a bit lost on you as a viewer if people nearby are munching on popcorn and sipping their soda. So as awesome as it can be to see in the theater, I believe it will have a better impact in the home where you can limit noise distractions.

For me, this movie is profound in so many ways. I honestly had to sit on it for 24hrs before I can really even begin to talk about it, because I had to let it sink in. I don’t even know if I can be sure I’ve taken in all that it has to offer with just one viewing, I really feel like when I view it again I will take more out of it, because now that I know the journey as a whole, I can begin to pay attention to more of the subtle tones that before I just took in subconsciously.

The biggest, most profound thing I took from this though was the honest portrayal of faith, and how humanity internalizes it. This is not an action movie at all, it is very much an introspective movie. It’s a movie about a historical event. Most importantly, it’s a movie about the journey that faith can take you on. It’s about how strongly you stick to your beliefs and convictions, and about how you determine your morals because of it.

At no point do I feel like the director was choosing sides and biasing the movie to favor the Japanese or the Catholics. That in and of itself lends the movie a quiet power that deserves recognition. At times it can feel like there is a bias, but when you stop and look at it as a whole, you realize you were simply taking in both sides of the coin. It’s the two sides of the story, meeting and being observed. You, as the viewer, are forced to form your own opinion as to the morality of the situation, and there’s honestly no right answer. The way it’s done is absolutely masterful, and you end up finding your thoughts drifting back and considering a different part every so often because of it.

I also found it to be a wonderful experience that sometimes there were subtitles when Japanese was in use, and sometimes there were not. For me, I felt like it helped draw the viewer more into the situation that our two Priests found themselves in, which adds to the subtle suspense that the movie has. On the other hand though, from the sheer amount of anime I have consumed in Japanese with subtitles (and some Rosetta Stone and similar products), I do have a loose grasp on the language and could understand a lot of it without subtitles. Still, I can understand what the idea was, and I believe it was beautifully executed.

In order to go into more details though, I will potentially reveal spoilers. I’m going to do my best not to, but if you want to be safe and see the movie first, don’t read beyond here until after you’ve seen the movie. If you don’t mind if there might be spoilers beyond this point, or if you’ve already seen the movie and want to compare experiences, please feel free to continue reading.

Faith is something I find fascinating, as everyone believes in something; even if that something is science and not an esoteric being or beings at all. I think it’s amazing how much trust and love we place in our chosen faith, and how unwavering we can be in it. Not only that, but we each will follow our own personal journey, both in finding our faith, walking the path of our faith, sharing it, and ultimately dying with its beliefs being all we have as we move into the unknown. So to watch a movie that centers around this, and watching the journey of faith is really inspiring. While we start out following a pair of Priests, ultimately we focus on just one, narrated by his inner thoughts for much of the movie.

He begins with such a strong faith, being empowered by the outpouring of love and devotion from the first Japanese Christians that he meets. Despite the fact that they practice in secret, he can tell how strong their faith is and it moves him almost to tears. As the film moves forward though, he does begin to question why God puts such trials before these people, and it’s with this beginning of questioning that we get to watch his faith evolve and grow with the situations he’s confronted with.

If you haven’t already guessed (and haven’t seen the movie), people die. A lot of people are going to die in this movie, and they’re not nice deaths. It’s the death that really begins to bring the idea of morals and values into play, and it’s here that we really start to get in-depth with the struggle of our Priest. The question is raised, as to if these people are dying for their faith, or because of him? This question is never answered, you have to decide for yourself. Just as he has to decide for himself what is truly happening.

Throughout his journey though, the character that tests his faith the most is one man who will do anything to survive, and constantly comes back asking to confess his sins and earn forgiveness. He honestly is a brilliantly placed character, because you want to hate him. It’s so easy to hate him. And so frustrating to watch him be forgiven, only to sin time and time again. However, I think he’s one of the key characters to the entire movie, because he is the person ultimately to push the faith to the limits. He’s the one who makes you think the most, and he’s the one who really shows that duality of faith that can exist.

When you really observe him, and think about him, it’s obvious that he’s just a man afraid to die. This is something many are faced with, and in the face of death he reacts in that moment of fear and chooses to survive. However, he then struggles with the consequences of his choice, because ultimately his choice to survive means someone else is put in harms way. And he struggles with this decision, because you can tell although he does not regret living, he wonders why he is so weak, and why he cannot be as brave. At the same time, he cannot cope without the forgiveness, because he does feel the weight of his choices. And he truly believes that maybe next time, maybe after the next confession, he can do better and be stronger. It’s truly a wonder to watch him grow, because he does, and to see where faith takes him and how he slowly comes to terms with everything. More importantly though, it’s interesting to see how he provides a window through which our Priest is able to view faith, because at so many junctures he is faced with the fact that abandoning this person would be the best course of action. However, to abandon him is not the way of Jesus, and so he does not, and that sets forth a chain of events.

It is very much a movie about choice. Each choice made in the movie has a specific set of consequences, and many times there are no good choices that can be made, just less bad ones. The deeper you get into the movie, the harder the choices become and the more blurred the lines of morality are.  As a viewer, you do sympathize, and share in the overwhelming nature of everything happening around the Priest we’re following.

I very much enjoyed following our Priest though, and watching his faith evolve. In the beginning of the movie, he speaks about being just like Jesus. He wants to be like the one he follows, and he has asked God for a similar trial. As the movie progresses, he reminds himself that he asked to be given such a mission, and slowly he does believe that he is following in Jesus’s footsteps. By the end of the movie, as time to reflect on it comes about, he realizes how insignificant his thoughts were, and how narrow-minded he had been. One is confronted with the idea that perhaps he was being self-centered in his belief, and that it caused severe consequences.

Yet, one also is confronted with the fact that he did not follow these beliefs and make these choices because he was doing it all for his own gain. Indeed, he was clearly making these choices and performing his actions because he honestly felt it was for the betterment of others.

It’s an intense moment too, when he finally has to face all his questioning, all his fears, and make a final decision that hangs on life or death. When he has to decide what is actual Christ-like, and not just what is blind faith. It is an immense moment to watch this Priest become enlightened.

As a viewer, it’s also immensely frustrating to watch this movie, because you just want to strangle the Priest and the Japanese Inquisitioner for not listening to each other. Two men of strong faiths that are not the same have these very deep conversations, but it’s so painfully obvious that both have already decided what their stance is without truly listening to the other that they get nowhere. Instead of being a sharing of ideas and similarities, it becomes a battleground of who is right, and who is wrong. Faith is neither, but they cannot seem to find peace between them because neither can seem to accept that both faiths can exist harmoniously. So begins the battle of wills.

In all these ways, the movie is so very profound. I’m sure there are so many other things that I want to say about this movie, but I simply cannot find the words to share those ideas. Not without outright spoiling it, and I don’t want to do that. At least, not in this main post. Comments are free to be full of spoilers with discussion. And if you want to discuss this movie after watching it, I welcome the dialog. It truly is a movie that has to be experienced, absorbed, reflected upon, and discussed.

  1. I do hope I get to see this flick at some point so all three of us can sit down, pick it apart and discuss it 🙂

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