*** Warning!!! Contains spoilers!!! ***
With incredible actors, stunning cinematography, and a heart-wrenching story, it was little wonder I was in silent awe when it was all said and done.
Going into Silence, I didn’t know what to expect. Going out of the film I didn’t know what to think.
The movie is based on a book with the same name and takes place in the 1600’s. The story is about two Portuguese missionaries who travel to Japan where they hope to find what happened to Padre Ferreira, a fellow priest, as well as discover the conditions of the Christian church in Japan.
Now, I think the acting in this film is exceptional, especially the performances of Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver, and Liam Neeson. The cinematography too, captures the stillness and urgency of the danger the priests endure.
I was thoroughly impressed with Garfield, who goes through a character arc that shocked me. He starts out in the determined fashion of one who wants to see a goal to its completion, that is, rescue his former mentor. But Andrew shows so many levels to his character, that by the time his journey is done, he’s a completely different person. He captures the essence of a broken spirit. One who has been crushed and loses all faith in what he believes.
A scene in the first half of the film shows Garfield’s character (Padre Rodrigues) watching fellow believers being tortured for their faith. The horror on his face brought me so much horror as well, his performance got me thinking about what his experience would be like. The camera also stayed on one of the dying men for so long that it made me feel very uncomfortable and stir in my chair.
There’s another scene where he’s in prison, talking to God. In that moment you can see the snap that happens in him. So frustrated and overwhelmed by his situation, he vents to God and demands that he breaks the silence. Garfield presents us with a performance of a crushed soul, making it one of the film’s cornerstones.
Driver’s performance is also up there with Garfield’s, though at first, I wasn’t keen. His character came off a bit whiny, especially next to Garfield’s sharp faith and stoicism throughout the first part of the film. But there’s a scene that really helped me feel for Driver’s character. It’s the scene where Padre Garupe is trying to save the villagers that are being tortured for their faith.
Driver shows a level of desperation which gave an incredible weight to the scene. The subtlety and nuance of his character is evident. Not overplaying the emotion which would’ve been tempting in the scene, he instead chose to show the inner conflict that raged within him.
To see him struggle so much to save people who are being killed simply for what they believe moved me. It left me holding my breath, anticipating every choice he made, waiting to see what he would do next. The scene was filled with hopelessness, not only because of Driver’s performance, but also because the camera angle gave off a distance from the audience.
His performance, possibly overshadowed by Garfield, still shines through in this scene.
The third performance that struck me was that of Liam Neeson as Padre Ferreira. We don’t see him much throughout the film, but when we do see him, the conflict within him is real and potent.
At the beginning we see him in terror as he watches people suffer, and in the end when he has adopted the customs of the Japanese people. What I found so fascinating about his performance was the subtly of that internal conflict. Really, Neeson’s eyes said everything. They used a lot of close-ups to capture that internal struggle. You could tell there was still a spark of something left in him. A hope that he held onto that he wasn’t ready to rid himself of. Maybe that’s why he became so passionate to dissuade his former pupil, Padre Rodrigues. He was trying to dissuade what was left in his own heart.
That’s what I gleamed from Neeson’s performance, which was easily gleamed because of how well he acted.
Through the performances of its main actors, we get a glimpse into the hopelessness of a lost faith, and the devastating effects. With the use of distance and close-ups the performances were even more impactful. They impacted me to the point where I didn’t know what to say, let alone think. The film’s incredible weight, brought about by brilliant actors and stunning cinematography, left me and the entire audience in silence.