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sexta-feira, 16 de dezembro de 2016
Silence review: Scorsese's brutal spiritual epic will scald – and succor – your soul
Director: Martin Scorsese; Starring: Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver, Liam Neeson, Yosuke Kubozuka, Issei Ogata, Tadanobu Asano, Ciaran Hinds. Cert tbc, 159 mins.
Awkward, golden, deafening, deathly: silence comes in countless forms, though there’s always something more to it than the mere absence of sound. We ascribe silence a physical presence – talk about keeping it, sitting in it, even dwelling in it. And like all physical objects, with enough strength it can be broken.
In the monumental new film from Martin Scorsese – his 24th in half a century, not counting documentaries and television work – silence is the sound of the voice of God. It’s the answer He gives to every question posed of Him by Father Sebastião Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield), a devout Portuguese Jesuit priest saving souls undercover in rural 17th century Japan.
Watch | Silence trailer
And it’s His only response when the country’s Kakure Kirishitans – the sect of "hidden Christians" converted by missionaries like Rodrigues – are smoked out by the shogun’s forces and summarily drowned, beheaded, burnt alive or bled out like butchered meat. In other words, it’s nothing – but the nothingness is as loud as the slowly building scream of insects with which the film begins, before it cuts to the audio equivalent of black.
That Scorsese could have made this plangent, scalding work of religious art so soon after The Wolf of Wall Street is inconceivable. Based on a 1966 novel, Chinmoku, by the Japanese Catholic writer Shusako Endo (already masterfully adapted once for the screen in 1977 in its original language by Masahiro Shinoda), it’s as soul-pricklingly attuned to matters transcendent and eternal as that previous film was drenched in the short-lived and sticky pleasures of the profane.
It’s the kind of work a great filmmaker can only pull off with a lifetime’s accrued expertise behind him. And its representation of death as something faced alone, no matter which collective causes your life may have stood for, gives it a capital-Fs Final Film air that is itself spiritually bracing (though Scorsese is reportedly poised to shoot his 25th, The Irishman, in February).
It’s a film about the search for God in circumstances defined by His absence. In an opening voiceover, Liam Neeson’s Father Cristóvão Ferreira, Rodrigues’s former teacher and confessor, notes that the Japanese describe the volcanic springs the shogun’s forces use to torture Christian missionaries as "hells": “Partly in mockery, and partly, I must tell you, in truth.” (The opening shot shows two priests’ heads, recently detached and lolling on a wooden trestle, by the side of one of these steaming pools – which, you know, bodes well.)
Ferreira goes on to explain that these priests not only refused to apostatise – that is, publicly renounce their faith, in this case by trampling on an image of Christ or the Virgin Mary – but asked to be tortured, “so they could demonstrate the power of their faith.”
When word reaches Rodrigues and his fellow priest Father Francisco Garrpe (Adam Driver) that Ferreira has not only committed apostasy himself, but gone wholly native, Colonel Kurtz style, in the countryside near the port town of Nagasaki, the two young men set out to find him, so his honour can be restored.
They brace for hardship, but what they encounter is throat-clutching horror – peasants praying to Deusu, the Christian god, by guttering torchlight, not daring to share their faith with nearby villages for fear of being sniffed out by Inquisitor Inoue (a magnificent, slightly Christoph Waltz-like performance from Issei Ogata, every line laced with sugar and arsenic) and his brutal retinue.
Garfield and Driver couldn’t imaginably be better – or better cast. Even physically, the contrast between them makes for great cinema: Garfield a spindly stem of wheat, glowing with goodness, Driver sloping, tapered, even (in the handsomest possible way) a little fungal. But it’s their performances, in which both actors drill down into very different seams of piety, that hold your sympathies in flux throughout.
Each one views Kichijiro (Yosuke Kubozuka), a born survivor among the natives who begins the film as their guide, very differently – and as Rodrigues’s own journey of endurance through Japan starts to take on the shape of Christ’s Passion, it’s his dealings with this brilliantly exasperating character that become the measure of his grace.
Meanwhile, Neeson’s Father Ferreira lurks somewhere in the background: when he finally surfaces it’s only for three scenes, but each one comes down with the lasting impact of a branding iron, leaving the tang of char behind it.
Grace may be the toughest of all spiritual conditions to capture on film: it’s why so few directors even attempt it. Scorsese, who spent a year in a seminary before making movies, has never shied away from matters religious – themes of guilt and redemption run through everything from The Last Temptation of Christ to Taxi Driver – but Silence seems to bring it all telescoping into perspective.
It’s a film full of tight close-ups of hands accepting gifts that comfort, inspire and bring succour to their recipients’ souls. That’s how we should receive it.