Silence is an artful, beautiful and thoughtful work from Martin Scorsese. However the fact that the film has religion at its heart will distance some audiences, and the lasting impression the film leaves is more thought-provoking than it is enjoyable.
Set in Japan in 1633, Silence follows the two Jesuit missionaries, played by Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver, who set out to discover the fate of their mentor, played by Liam Neeson. Christianity was essentially illegal in 17th century Japan, and a visceral story of the persecution of Christians makes up a sizeable part of this films’ narrative.
Martin Scorsese’s latest outing has been long-awaited, his last film being the polarising The Wolf of Wall Street in 2013. While TheWolf of Wall Street is fairly unique as a film, as well as being Scorsese’s most profitable work, it hasn’t achieved the iconic status of Scorsese’s best work - the likes of Taxi Driver, Raging Bull and The Departed.
Silence unfortunately doesn’t regain that past grandeur either. Given that Martin Scorsese is now 74 years old and has been making films since 1967, fans may be starting to panic. It all begs the question: has Scorsese got another great in him?
While Silence isn’t the cinematic great that the director’s fans have been waiting for, it is at least a nod in the right direction. The film is immensely well shot and very well acted, but then most audiences would expect nothing else from a seasoned master like Scorsese. The choice of historical setting is memorable and the film does have moments of sheer brilliance but the lasting feeling is that Silence is, above all, thought provoking. You won’t come out of the cinema punching the air and re-living the closing scenes, instead you’ll likely be mulling this one over for quite some time.
This is a film not quite like anything else in Martin Scorsese’s filmography, but he has shown the capacity to escape his own niche before with films like King of Comedy (which is equally unlike anything else he has directed,).
However King of Comedy seemed to carry more of Scorsese’s film making hallmarks, a brash American confidence that escaped Hollywood cliché or predictable plot development. King of Comedy was different, enjoyable and pretty special; conversely Silence is different, memorable and very well made, but doesn’t provide the cinematic highs of Scorsese’s best work.
However, that being said, Silence’s gritty drama feels like a more promising move for Scorsese’s career in the long term than Wolf of Wall Street did. It is thought provoking and TheWolf of Wall Street lacked in that department given its over-indulgent repetitive ‘wealth-porn’ style format.
Despite the fact that Wolf of Wall Street told an important story of misplaced power and misuse of wealth, it lacked substance. Scorsese has regained his substance in Silence, but without finding his full flow. Fans of the director that want to experience ‘the Scorsese of old’ will take hope from Silence. There might be another great in the old master, this isn’t it though.
Silence is out now in UK cinemas. Read our full review here.