It’s a new year, and eight days in we’re already questioning whether God exists. Martin Scorsese’s Silence came out on New Year’s Day in the UK and it’s rather divided audiences. Critics on our shores have loved it, but reaction in the US has been more tempered. And while we never judge the quality of a film by its award nominations tally, Silence has been a notably minor player in this year’s awards circuit.
When our Reviews Editor Bertie reviewed it he called the film “an undeniably astonishing piece of cinema, but that doesn’t make it a great film“, giving it a solid three out of five. But what of the rest of the team? This year, we want to show off more of our great team so we’ve gathered a few of them together to give their two cents on the escapades of two Jesuit priests in 17th century Japan.
On top of this, we want to hear from you. What did you think of Scorsese’s latest? Tell us in the comments below.
Patrick T – 3/5
Silence has been hailed as Scorsese’s most personal film since Mean Streets. But while viewers will likely emerge from the cinema with a profound sense of Scorsese’s filmmaking prowess and not inconsiderable reverence for the subject matter, it’s a hard film to love. Though both leads, in particular Garfield, deliver earnest performances, their Portuguese-inflected accents are a perennial distraction and Adam Driver fans will be disappointed at how his character becomes marginalised midway through proceedings. Silence is unquestionably a film to be admired. But that’s part of the problem. It feels like something to be studied rather than enjoyed.
Kambole – 4/5
Silence isn’t perfect, but it’s one of the better films about religious faith that I’ve seen. Far from preachiness, Scorsese doesn’t go easy on anyone or provide simple answers – the religious are challenged as much as the non-religious, Rodrigues’ (a fantastic Andrew Garfield with a shaky accent) crisis of faith born from vanity as much as from doubt; his desire to become a messianic figure provides the film with a unique and deeply compelling emotional hook. It’s a bleak and difficult watch with a runtime that will have a lot of people checking their watch at the halfway point – but ultimately, it’s worth the time.
Jack – 4/5
A long awaited, long in-production passion project for Scorsese, ambition and intelligence emanate from every frame of Silence which, with a few caveats, I thought was a really excellent film. Half historical epic, half intellectual treatise on the relationship between cinema and God (while wrestling with plenty of other theological questions), Silence is powerful and fascinating, though too long and with an underwhelming ending. The whole thing is beautiful, with amazing cinematography and sound, and with such a quality array of performances from the western and Japanese casts, its flaws are easily overlooked, even if it’s not quite peak Scorsese.
Tom – 3/5
There are few films as rigorous or unmerciful in their interrogation of religion, but although Scorsese’s intellectual complexity is unparalleled it doesn’t always make for a rewarding watch. Scorsese delights in the Catch-22s of faith and the torment they inflict on Rodrigues, but for the average agnostic it’s hard to identify with his internal conflict.
When innocent people are murdered in the name of Rodrigues’ beliefs – basically amounting to “my God is better than yours” – it’s difficult to sympathise with his suffering. Playing faith as a battle between sadism and masochism, Silence leaves you wondering why you should even bother.
Nick – 3/5
Scorsese’s ambition, scope and lack of compromise in Silence are easy to admire, as are its top-level artistry and powerful, driven performances (the best of which being from the underused Driver, who many will think should have been the story’s focal point). However Silence’s main flaw, which it never entirely overcomes, is its fundamental unrelatability. The fatal disconnect that exists between Rodrigues, his faith, and any audience member attempting to understand his struggle on an emotional (or even logical) level means that unless said viewer is particularly religious, it’s an incredibly difficult story to connect with beyond the visceral.
Christopher – 5/5
Martin Scorsese has the battery acid of a director a third of his 74 years – and the gall. His last film, The Wolf of Wall Street, was a preposterously enjoyable carnival of contemporary American sin. To investigate its zealous antithesis, he must venture back in time and to the East with a question: which is more easily broken – silence or faith? Scorsese’s wisdom of cinema and theology has delivered a masterpiece instead of disposable answers. Silence is a deftly captured wonder, brimming with miracles and misery, presented by a master at the staggering height of his powers.