Date(s) - April 9, 2017 - April 12, 2017
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Perhaps the most sorely underrated film of 2016, Martin Scorsese’s spiritual epicis simultaneously a work of finesse, subtlety, and matter-of-fact violence. A very faithful adaptation of Shusaku Endo’s acclaimed novel about 17th Century Catholic missionaries, interlopers in a country (Japan) that has decided to shut its doors on foreign influence, and which has resorted to brutal repression and torture to stamp out heretical beliefs.
By no means an apologia for Catholicism, which has of course been associated with bloody crackdowns of its own, the film is actually a sober, probing examination of faith, ego, cruelty and compassion. A passion project for Scorsese for decades, it goes right back to Harvey Keitel holding his fingers over a burning match in Mean Streets: “The pain in hell has two sides: the kind you can touch with your hand; the kind you can feel in your heart… your soul, the spiritual side. And you know… the worst of the two is the spiritual.”
“Two bearded Jesuits, idealistic Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield, wet-eyed and soulful) and his sturdy counterpart, Garupe (Adam Driver), make up an “army of two,” heading to a Japan shrouded in smoke and mystery. It’s partly the terrain of Scorsese’s beloved Akira Kurosawa—epics like Ran and Throne of Blood—and partly a natural paradise. (Cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto bathes the imagery in ashen grays and a rare, precious sunlight that struggles to penetrate the gloom.) The men seek their mentor, Ferreira (Liam Neeson), unheard of for years. Even as Silence sets up its simple imbalance of power, between well-intentioned but alien invaders hoping to spread the word of Christ, local potentates who hunt them down as fugitives, and the frightened religious converts in the balance, you can feel it easing toward a larger showdown.
That clash is the one you’re waiting for, the one that turns Silence into a powerful, all-time statement on the threatening influence of colonization. It comes after the central pair is dealt multiple setbacks and split in half. Even as Rodrigues languishes in an outdoor prison—there’s a strong whiff of Apocalypse Now—Scorsese’s pear-shaped screenplay (well streamlined by Jay Cocks) foregrounds unusual internal battles: the purring Japanese inquisitor, Inoue (The Sun’s extraordinarily weird Issey Ogata), who sees in his captive a man worth psychologically snapping instead of martyring; and the weak local boatman, Kichijiro (Yôsuke Kubozuka), who pesters Rodrigues for an absolution he doesn’t deserve.
Does Silence ultimately hold on to its compassion? Undeniably, but this is a sophisticated film that dares to expose the breadth of cultural division. Scorsese has hit the rare heights of Ingmar Bergman and Carl Theodor Dreyer, artists who found in religion a battleground that often left the strongest in tatters, compromised and ruined. It’s a movie desperately needed at a moment when bluster must yield to self-reflection.” Joshua Rothkopf, Time Out New York
“A film for the ages.” Glenn Whipp, LA Times
The screening on Weds 12 April will feature an introduction by the Rev Gary Paterson of St Andrew’s Wesley Church.