Friday, January 7, 2022

Step on Me

Silence (2016) - Scorsese Silence 1 Silence Silence 2 Silence, Martin Scorsese's passion project of 25 years, based on Shusaku Endo's book, despite its 161 minute run time, it's immensely more watchable and compelling than say, The Irishman. Silence tells two Portuguese Jesuit priests, Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) and Garupe (Adam Driver), after hearing their mentor, Father Ferreira renounced his faith after being totured, to go to Japan to verify it. 16th century Japan is still a closed and hostile country to foreigners and many Christian missionaries and their followers are persecuted. The two are smuggled in to a small island inhabited by peasants. They found out that by their predecessors, Christianity took roots within some populations, but because of relentless persecutions by the grand inquisitor Inoue (Issei Ogata) and people ratting out the converts for silver rewards, all the Christians hide their faith.

Rodrigues and Garupe become the defacto priests for the townspeople and their gospel spills out to neighboring villages in secret. But they witness terrible fate of their followers as Inoue's officials capture them and torture them to death - drowning, beheading, etc. Eventually, Rodrigues gets caught too and goes through grueling imprisonment and witness terrible things being befallen on his followers. Only his apostate will save them. All he has to do is step on a Christian iconography laid out in front of him.

Garfield is good. So is Driver (but underused) and Liam Neeson who plays Ferreira who denounced his faith and living as a scholar with a Japanese wife and family, who writes a book denigrating Christianity. But the real stars in Silence are four Japanese actors - Ogata, Tadanobu Asano as an interpreter for the inquistor, Shin'ya Tsukamoto (director of Tetsuo the Iron Man) as the peasant devotee Mokichi and Kosuke Kabozuka as wild-eyed peasant, Kichijiro who denounce his Christian faith many times for survival.

Rodrigues, in order to save some peasants being tortured to death in his name and urging of Ferreira, denounces Christianity by stepping on Jesus. He does so, after hearing God's voice. "It's ok to step on me."

The crux of the story is that Rodrigues never lost his faith and died a Christian. That early Christianity in hostile places, they endured by staying silent. All the time his prayers have gone unanswered, he finally understood god's silence. Silence is a somber film full of stellar performances. It's too bad Rodrigues realized that after all the death. With Rodrigo Prieto's crisp wide ratio photography, it reminds me of Scorsese's Kundun, in terms of theme and scale. I just wish he does more of these films instead of gangster flicks.