“I pray but I am lost. Am I just praying to silence?” Religion is never a comfortable area to tread into. It seems as each day passes the topic becomes more sensitive, even in a world where our entire lives are open to the prying eyes of all. Though people are clearly willing to accept the difficulties of organised religion (Spotlight), it’s difficult to establish a film that willingly opens up the debate on the existence of a God in an engaging story, and does not swing towards the preference of one way of thinking over the other.
Obviously feeling up to the task, America’s greatest director Martin Scorsese brings us his pet project for several years in the form of Silence, the tale of two Jesuit priests who go searching for their teacher in Japan after hearing that he may have apostatised (given up the faith). The two priests, played by Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver, initially appear equally ready for the task at hand, though as time goes on their differences become clear and their once sturdy belief in God is tested to its fullest.
Though Silence is a gruelling 170 minutes, it has a lot to offer. It is rarely enjoyable, doesn’t offer for much in entertainment value, and appears to solely focus its impact on the discussion it opens up regarding religion, specifically Christianity. Therefore, much of its significance comes after the credits, where you can sit in your car and mull things over. It brings a lot to consider for the most devout of believers as well as the loudest Atheist. That’s not in attempt to convert you one way to the other, but to show you the power and temptation of each, the reason why some have belief that shadows the rest of their lives, and others why the idea of belief is simply too difficult to imagine.
Though the debate is great, and I was fully engrossed in my own thoughts post credits, Scorsese beautifully works with Garfield and Driver to show off the simplicity of the human condition. Not only do both of them; men initially of unbounded faith, come to question their religion, but they fall guilty to the basic human sins. Garfield becomes overly prideful as the people of Japan worship him, while Driver becomes envious of the connection Garfield has with the Japanese people. Those are the moments that make Silence special.
If you’re able to sit with Silence knowing its subject matter and its length, you will likely get something out of it. Its ability to show the power of faith and religion is impressive, and Scorsese takes his skills out of his comfort zone and applies them to something that few have touched on. If you ever wandered whether the director was one of the greatest of all time, this right here is the psalm from which we should sing his praises.