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Filmspotting Message Boards => Movie Talk (Spoiler Edition) => Topic started by: Junior on January 19, 2017, 03:10:54 PM

Title: Silence
Post by: Junior on January 19, 2017, 03:10:54 PM
Ok, so let's talk about a few things that I couldn't quite get to in my (already too long) review (http://www.filmspotting.net/forum/index.php?topic=14226.msg861021#msg861021).

The first is that holy wow does Andrew Garfield look a heck of a lot like Hayden Christiansen in the Star Wars movies here. It isn't helped when Qui-Gon himself shows up at the end with long hair and robe and everything to really complete the picture. More than all the chewing sounds combined, this knocked me out of the film for a little bit.

Secondly, what did you all make of the actually quite present voice and image of God near the end of the movie? Hallucination brought on by madness and torture? Or real? I was surprised for a minute there, but then I remembered that this was a Scorsese movie and nothing's gonna stop him from doing something bold. I loved the use of the portrait as God, and I quite liked how Scorsese used it (first in that smaller hallucination at the stream and then big and bold and full-framed. It's that kind of quietly dazzling filmmaking that is what I've come to love most in films, and it's all over this movie. My nomination for best shot is a long take that doesn't feel like one because of how well done and both showy and un-showy at the same time it is. Kind of a marvel. It starts with the decapitated body and head literally split by the bars of Rodrigues' cell in the foreground, then somebody drags the body over to the shallow grave and plops it in unceremoniously. Then a quick pan across the trail of blood to the perpetrator (also framed by the cell bars) and some dialogue. It's small, it's short compared to what we've seen him do before, but it also highlights how little Rodrigues can do to change his situation and that of his fellow Christians. Spectacular stuff.
Title: Re: Silence
Post by: Totoro on January 20, 2017, 08:29:59 PM
I still haven't collected my thoughts.

It's very close to a masterpiece for me. I think the first half is too loose and the performances are all a bit too sketchy. Garfield comes into the performance for the second half though, delivers career-defining work in his scene with Liam Neeson and the subsequent walking on the fumie scene which made me scared, on edge, and on the verge of tears throughout - when Christ began talking, I lost it.  :'(

This is a film that needs a certain type of a person to truly appreciate it. Someone who isn't a fundamentalist Christian who doesn't believe doubt has any place in Christianity. Someone who isn't such a hardcore atheist that they believe all religious narratives are fluffy and silly and stupid. Someone who isn't solely into fast paced violent odysseys that Hollywood peddles over and over in big budget studio films. So no wonder it took 30 years to make.

I am glad it's finding an audience. I'm glad people are having intelligent conversations over it. I'm like hardcore waiting for Oldkid to see it.
Title: Re: Silence
Post by: Junior on January 20, 2017, 08:34:22 PM
I agree on the looseness of the first half and the greatness of those later scenes. And yeah, it takes a certain kind of person to love it. I'd also like to hear what Sam and OAD have to say about it. I know Sam is going this weekend.
Title: Re: Silence
Post by: Totoro on January 20, 2017, 10:07:26 PM
My only question is whether or not this film others the Japanese and presents the white characters in a wholly positive and self-righteous light. Mainstream critics seem mostly split on this. I think it's very much about not only subverting but destroying the white savior trope. One of my favorite scenes is the one where Rodrigues screams at the other captured Japanese Christians that they're all going to die. He's vulnerable, he's scared, but most of all, he's weak and he's human, scared of death to the point of sharing it with those that would otherwise follow him. He's not infallible.
Title: Re: Silence
Post by: Junior on January 20, 2017, 10:10:08 PM
I'm with you there, too. It's a fascinating and complex take on what has been a simple sorry in the past.
Title: Re: Silence
Post by: IDrinkYourMilkshake on January 25, 2017, 05:43:50 AM
I agree with Totoro about the first hour or so. I spent the first 30 minutes thinking "so... it's a comedy?"

I loved this film. I'd like to know how close it is to the novel, and I think questions of 'otherness' are irrelevant, or, at the very least, the films pre-emptively responds to such objections in the second half with some of the dialogue scenes. I agree that it subverts the white saviour trope.

I going to see it again as soon as I can. Unfortunately it doesn't seem to have had much of a run in the UK, and apparently has lost money at the box office. But then we live in the world of President Trump. Films like this are too good for such a mediocre culture.

Glad Scorsese's back on form after the 3-hour MTV promo video he made for Jordan Belfort.
Title: Re: Silence
Post by: oneaprilday on January 26, 2017, 12:41:39 PM
Secondly, what did you all make of the actually quite present voice and image of God near the end of the movie? Hallucination brought on by madness and torture? Or real? I was surprised for a minute there, but then I remembered that this was a Scorsese movie and nothing's gonna stop him from doing something bold. I loved the use of the portrait as God, and I quite liked how Scorsese used it (first in that smaller hallucination at the stream and then big and bold and full-framed. It's that kind of quietly dazzling filmmaking that is what I've come to love most in films, and it's all over this movie.
A fascinating, essential moment that I at first took as pure hallucination/disorientation akin to the stream moment (it's a wonderful, perplexing parallel set of scenes) but then thought could actually be God, and the power of the voice and the image (so truly stunning) made me lean towards the latter interpretation. But I think, ultimately, we can't know either way because of the subjectivity of the perspective. What I loved about it - that moment - was the embrace of his own failure, the final skewering of all his pride, a choice that meant he would never be a martyr as he thought he would be, and so prove his faith. He was, after all, only as strong or as weak as Kichijiro, a constantly lapsing Christian who perhaps cannot ever be called a real Christian or would not be called so. But the irony of course is that while he failed to be a "Christian martyr" (something that might be seen as the ultimate proof of faith), what he did was at the same time an act of faith. An impossible decision that had no clear path - any path was the wrong one - and so he simply had to step forward and give up all pretensions to knowing he knew anything at all about what was right. And he could not, thereafter, presume to speak as a representative of the faith. And yet, what I loved about this failure, this stepping on the face of Christ instead of being a martyr, was the way it was so fully complicated in the following, final scenes. In more straight forward film, there would be a fall into nihilism or perhaps hedonism or atheism: I cannot know what it right and I cannot be what is good and the church has failed and therefore, God is dead. Or, if not nihilism or atheism, another film might show him falling into a Christian hypocrisy and a denial of his failure.  But the end leaves the space for something more complex than either of those things. A faith that is real but a weak faith, barely visible - one that we perhaps doubt is there at all, one that hides and perhaps needs the actions of others (eg. his wife and her final act for him, placing an object of faith into his literally dead hands that cannot act on their own) to exist at all - but it is there, utterly humbled and emptied of the self and of pride. If God is there, I think the suggestion is, it will be up to him in the end, not to Rodrigues, as Rodrigues had thought throughout the bulk of the film.
Title: Re: Silence
Post by: Junior on January 26, 2017, 06:43:11 PM
Fantastic as always. I think your explanation of the conflicting ideas in Rodrigues' mind about which is the real sin makes for a compelling final third of the film. I wondered at first why the movie didn't end when he stepped on the tile or shortly after, but the coda nicely complicates things, as you pointed out. Brilliant stuff.
Title: Re: Silence
Post by: oneaprilday on January 26, 2017, 09:38:41 PM
The coda threw me at first as well - partly because I felt only fully emotionally engaged in the moment he steps on the tile and had a moment of disappointment that there was going to be a lingering coda. I couldn't figure out where it would go from there - but as you say, it's the coda that makes the film fully complex and masterful.

I struggled a bit through most of the film with the performances of Garfield and Driver. Something about how they looked, how they spoke (the odd accents), and how they behaved didn't communicate the era to me. And I felt distant from them and the suffering. (The villagers' lives were much more powerful.) They seemed out of place. But, in the end, I found that final - what was it, 15 minutes? - so powerful and so powerfully speaking to the events of the rest of the film that somehow even Garfield and Driver's odd performances felt right. And perhaps the out-of-place nature of Garfield and Driver suits the film's context - they are out of place in Japan and are never quite fully united with the people that want them there. They see themselves as above them, I think, rather than as humble vessels of service. Until that attitude changes at the end.

I really want to see it again now. It's gone from the theaters here though.  :'( It lasted only a week; last night was the last night.
Title: Re: Silence
Post by: Junior on January 26, 2017, 10:08:04 PM
This has all the markings of a movie that'll be "rediscovered" in 10 years or when Scorsese dies exactly because it was such a nothing at the box office and is complex enough to merit the attention. Hugo is nice and I like Shutter Island, but this is his 21st century masterpiece.
Title: Re: Silence
Post by: saltine on January 26, 2017, 10:34:07 PM
Starts here 2/9.  Really want to see this one because of your reviews which I've only skimmed but can see lots of insightful discussion.  Anxious to join in...
Title: Re: Silence
Post by: oneaprilday on January 26, 2017, 10:54:37 PM
This has all the markings of a movie that'll be "rediscovered" in 10 years or when Scorsese dies exactly because it was such a nothing at the box office and is complex enough to merit the attention. Hugo is nice and I like Shutter Island, but this is his 21st century masterpiece.
Agreed!

Starts here 2/9.  Really want to see this one because of your reviews which I've only skimmed but can see lots of insightful discussion.  Anxious to join in...
Eager to hear what you think!
Title: Re: Silence
Post by: Junior on January 26, 2017, 11:12:06 PM
I struggled a bit through most of the film with the performances of Garfield and Driver. Something about how they looked, how they spoke (the odd accents), and how they behaved didn't communicate the era to me. And I felt distant from them and the suffering. (The villagers' lives were much more powerful.) They seemed out of place. But, in the end, I found that final - what was it, 15 minutes? - so powerful and so powerfully speaking to the events of the rest of the film that somehow even Garfield and Driver's odd performances felt right. And perhaps the out-of-place nature of Garfield and Driver suits the film's context - they are out of place in Japan and are never quite fully united with the people that want them there. They see themselves as above them, I think, rather than as humble vessels of service. Until that attitude changes at the end.

This is an interesting point as well. The accents are strange, but they're supposed to be Portuguese, right? Or did I misread that at the beginning? Anyways, I think this is why pix asked me how Garfield was after just watching the trailer. He comes off very strange there and early in the film, but once you figure out what's going on with him and how it all works, I think you kind of settle into it. The acting also has to go over a pretty wide range, especially in Garfield's case. In that way his mannered performance early on might serve to contrast with the intense anxiety he feels at the concept and prospect of apostasy later on. You can also kind of see it interestingly in Driver. I like that Scorsese (and probably in the original book) takes him literally out of the picture only to give him back at such a different level than we last saw him. Again, that contrast. He's further past what Garfield will go through, and it's hard to watch him keep the faith when we can see that the whole thing is both based on a lie (that Garfield already gave up) and is supposed to mess with Garfield as well.

I wonder where this will eventually end up on people's Scorsese lists. I'm guessing middle for many, high for a few, and low for some number in between.
Title: Re: Silence
Post by: oneaprilday on January 27, 2017, 05:07:52 PM
Yes, I think Portuguese, and I guess I don't know that accent well, but it didn't seem consistent, whatever it was. But yes, I did kind of settle into the performance eventually, and I think a second viewing would be even better, now that I know what to expect.

I really liked the choice, too, that Driver's character was just gone - and then suddenly introduced again, in a very extreme state of being, and we don't know what, exactly, he's been through nor everything that was personally or emotionally involved in that final action of his. I like the not knowing there as it mirrors the perspective of the final narrator of the film, who is observing the priests and has no idea what they've been through and cannot really judge what is in their hearts.

Curious about that ranking, too. I suspect it'll take a few years for its placement and for opinions to settle.
Title: Re: Silence
Post by: Totoro on January 30, 2017, 05:39:08 AM
This easily my favorite of what I will call the Outright Religious Scorsese Trilogy (come at me with better names) in THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST, KUNDUN, and now SILENCE. His best film since THE AGE OF INNOCENCE (another divisive work).
Title: Re: Silence
Post by: DarkeningHumour on January 30, 2017, 06:13:26 AM
The accents are absolutely not Portuguese, I can guarantee that.

Crossposting my review:

I have been trying to finish this one for 10 days...

Silence
Martin Scorsese (2016)


Martin Scorsese is one of the directors I trust enough to blindly go watch any new movie he puts out. I haven't loved all of his films, whether early or recent, but the good far outweighs the bad and I am rarely averse to them. I vaguely knew Silence was about Catholic priests in feudal Japan going in, but that was about it.

If anything that much information played in favour of the movie. We really don't get enough movies about feudal Japans - or any other feudal society for that matter. I had to go all the way back to 2010 to find a movie that might have been released here (13 Assassins) and all such movies are usually about samurais. Here was a movie about a subject I love that looked at it from an angle that is almost never taken.

It is odd that I should like one of the most gorgeous movies of the year less than some drab, unremarkable fare I watched a few months ago and have already forgotten. The padres spend the movie pushing against the Japanese Inquisition (which, unlike the Spanish kind, is apparently completely expected) and coming to grips with their relationship to Jehovah. Scorsese treats his subject in a way that glorifies the fanaticism of his characters, both priestly and not, which makes it impossible to like the movie, or them. During the almost entire running time of the film martyrdom is portrayed as a noble thing, a demonstration of integrity when lying and humiliation provide a way out. The priests disagree about whether tramping on an image of Jesus is permissible but they are both intent on continuing preaching, whatever the cost visited upon their flock.

Garfield demonstrates some amount of doubt as the movie progresses and his deity remains silent. This feels more like Scorsese checking a box that everyone would be expecting than a genuine attempt to explore that corner of Garfield's psyche. I am likely wrong about that, I want to think Scorsese is better than that, but the whole thing was very much mishandled. The most egregious moments are when the heavenly powers actually speak to Garfield in audible voices.

I don't know how Scorsese lives his religiosity. I don't even know if he is religious at all. Had I not known he had directed this I would have thought the director had been fascinated by the worst aspects of Catholicism of the Jesuit variety. The last shot of the movie reveals something that demonstrates, if there was any doubt, that Silence is ultimately about faith, faith in the face of adversity and doubt. It believes such faith is a great, worthwhile thing, one that merits a two hour monument. I disagree.

The script only gets intellectually interesting during the discussions in its last third, when Garfield is confronted with the Inquisitor and Liam Neeson. There is no doubt the Japanese authorities are the villains of the story and the history, but the Jesuits are not blameless either, and it is in the allotment of blame and reason that these exchanges shine. The Inquisitor is not a barbarian fundamentalist but a learned man fighting for the sovereignty of his country. Neeson has become enlightened in the cultural realities of Japan that make it hard to preach Catholicism there. His explanation of how Garfield's converts are not real Christians is one of the movie's highlights and the kind of scene I would have loved to see more of. Garfield is deaf to most of their points. A lot of his arguments are right but he speaks out of emotion and faith, not intellectual conviction.

To my mind there were scores of superior stories that could have been told about this period and place, about this same subject even, especially with these means. I resent the film a bit for taking this marvellous opportunity and wasting it so, even if that is unfair. There is another point that I do not believe to be unfair though. Here we have a movie about Portuguese (is any of them a Spaniard?) men in Japan and all Europeans are played by Anglo-Saxons. It is not as if English-washing were anything new, but if there is ever an opportunity to play a movie in real language, surely this is it? A director's darling project, a historical piece, non-dead languages. Is this about mass audience appeal ? Is Silence supposed to attract large crowds ?

4/10
Title: Re: Silence
Post by: oneaprilday on January 30, 2017, 08:43:25 AM
Re: the accents - It is 17th c Portuguese though, right? Which I imagine is quite different from modern Portuguese. I talk about this a bit with my students when I teach Shakespeare - the accents of the Early Modern/Elizabethan period were a lot different from the British English we know today.
Title: Re: Silence
Post by: DarkeningHumour on January 30, 2017, 09:00:52 AM
I am unable to tell you what 17th century Portuguesemen (okay, why does my spellchecker show that as incorrect but I can say Frenchmen and there is no problem with that?) like but what Garfield and Driver are doing here sounds completely American to my ears with no hints of Latin at all.
Title: Re: Silence
Post by: sdb_1970 on January 30, 2017, 02:41:10 PM
On a mostly unrelated point, I've been trying to look up this online, but I can't seem to generate the right search terms and it's driving me nuts ... Several years ago, I heard this linguistic anthropologist (I think ... on NPR?) who postulated that every language - no matter how culturally robust - has had this window period of obsolescence, like 400 to 600 years (or something like that), whereby persons speaking the language at the end of the period would not be able to understand people speaking (what is purportedly) the same language at the beginning of that period.
Title: Re: Silence
Post by: jdc on January 30, 2017, 03:24:14 PM
Overall, I was disappointed in this which I probably will have to get to in a later post.  But there is one scene just wondering if this thought went through anybody else's head.  When the 3 Japanese followers are on the crosses when the tide is coming up.  There are times where it looks like they can just remove their hands at any point and jump into the water due to the ropes being so loose.  Didn't anybody wonder why they didn't?

Not that it is likely to change their fate but it didn't seem like they were really stuck to the cross in which case anything else would seem like a better alternative.

Maybe just nitpicking...
Title: Re: Silence
Post by: oneaprilday on January 31, 2017, 12:30:02 AM
On a mostly unrelated point, I've been trying to look up this online, but I can't seem to generate the right search terms and it's driving me nuts ... Several years ago, I heard this linguistic anthropologist (I think ... on NPR?) who postulated that every language - no matter how culturally robust - has had this window period of obsolescence, like 400 to 600 years (or something like that), whereby persons speaking the language at the end of the period would not be able to understand people speaking (what is purportedly) the same language at the beginning of that period.
This sounds familiar to me, too. Was it on Lexicon Valley or maybe History of the English Language podcast (of which I've listened to a few episodes)?
Title: Re: Silence
Post by: Junior on February 02, 2017, 01:29:43 AM
Scorsese treats his subject in a way that glorifies the fanaticism of his characters, both priestly and not, which makes it impossible to like the movie, or them. During the almost entire running time of the film martyrdom is portrayed as a noble thing, a demonstration of integrity when lying and humiliation provide a way out. The priests disagree about whether tramping on an image of Jesus is permissible but they are both intent on continuing preaching, whatever the cost visited upon their flock.

Garfield demonstrates some amount of doubt as the movie progresses and his deity remains silent. This feels more like Scorsese checking a box that everyone would be expecting than a genuine attempt to explore that corner of Garfield's psyche. I am likely wrong about that, I want to think Scorsese is better than that, but the whole thing was very much mishandled. The most egregious moments are when the heavenly powers actually speak to Garfield in audible voices.

I don't know how Scorsese lives his religiosity. I don't even know if he is religious at all. Had I not known he had directed this I would have thought the director had been fascinated by the worst aspects of Catholicism of the Jesuit variety. The last shot of the movie reveals something that demonstrates, if there was any doubt, that Silence is ultimately about faith, faith in the face of adversity and doubt. It believes such faith is a great, worthwhile thing, one that merits a two hour monument. I disagree.

The script only gets intellectually interesting during the discussions in its last third, when Garfield is confronted with the Inquisitor and Liam Neeson. There is no doubt the Japanese authorities are the villains of the story and the history, but the Jesuits are not blameless either, and it is in the allotment of blame and reason that these exchanges shine. The Inquisitor is not a barbarian fundamentalist but a learned man fighting for the sovereignty of his country. Neeson has become enlightened in the cultural realities of Japan that make it hard to preach Catholicism there. His explanation of how Garfield's converts are not real Christians is one of the movie's highlights and the kind of scene I would have loved to see more of. Garfield is deaf to most of their points. A lot of his arguments are right but he speaks out of emotion and faith, not intellectual conviction.

I'm not sure martyrdom is ennobled in the film. Firstly, it's depicted as a pretty awful thing to endure. This is not a quick death, usually. Secondly, there's no indication that anything comes of it. All we know is what happens on earth. Conviction, perhaps, is ennobled, but our "hero" eventually succumbs to apostasy and is depicted as having lived a long and healthy life. The people on the crosses just die, horribly.

They also aren't preaching "whatever the cost," they're preaching despite the cost. There's a conversation about whether or not they are doing more harm than good and they come down on the idea that these are the already converted, but they lack the ability to preach to themselves and perform the sacraments and stuff. The fathers, then, are just helping their temporary flock's souls, not expanding the flock.

I already talked about my admiration for how well I thought Scorsese handled the God visions. I love that it's not clear whether they are hallucinations or real divine presence, and it's wonderful how even such an obvious approach can still maintain ambiguity.

I'm also not sure that "it believes faith is a great, worthwhile thing, one that merits a two hour monument." Firstly, how dare you chop like 40 minutes off of this thing's epic length!?!?! Secondly, despite what I said earlier, the remainder of Garfield's life, while healthy and long, doesn't seem to be a super great time. I think this is another example of the film's wonderful ambiguity. Even that cross at the end might not mean a pat thing like he was right all along or whatever. The cross will also burn, remember. Perhaps faith is a human thing and dies with the person who believes in it.

You talk in the final paragraph I quoted about Garfield speaking out of emotion and faith, not intellectual conviction. Again, I disagree. While I also think this scene holds some of the film's best bits, I think it is precisely because we see Garfield react in such a human way to Neeson's mannered and somewhat logical statements that makes the scene so great. He doesn't have intellectual conviction at this moment, not anymore, and it is his eventual downfall. You're citing the film's greatest accomplishment and calling it a failing. That happens, we see things differently, all of us, but I just wanted to get a fan's POV out there.
Title: Re: Silence
Post by: saltine on February 02, 2017, 03:06:13 AM
I feel so left out.  Two of my favorite posters and I can't join in. :'(
Title: Re: Silence
Post by: DarkeningHumour on February 02, 2017, 06:18:45 AM
The moments when Jehovah/Jesus talks to Garfield can be interpreted as hallucinations on his part and I have no problem with that sort of ambiguity. What bothered me about the scene was how it was made. Actually hearing that voice was to me an enormous mistake. Maybe Scorsese should have shot the scene with Garfield being the only one able to hear that voice, I don't know. His method was inelegant. I actually appreciated the hallucinatory child presence of Exodus more than this.

Martyrdom, in its process, is appropriately demonstrated to be an unbearable sufferance.  That is not the part of it that bothered me. It is how the movie leads you to that moment that jars. Why do those people chose the cross instead of tramping an icon? They are taking a stand on principle and morality in a world where morality is dictated by the Book. Scorsese stands with them as they tell you through their acts, lives and deaths that it is more important to respect a idol than your own well-being ; or you could answer that the question here is not idolatry and that the object stands for the entire body of belief and for their faith, that spitting on the cross would be reneging, virtually apostatising, cowering oneself instead of standing for one's beliefs. Any system that asks you to sacrifice yourself instead of denying it is poisonous. If you refuse to spit not because of a precept but on your own decision so you will not be deemed a coward that is a celebration of fanatical pride. There are times when we must stand on principle even though there is nothing to gain from that, but that was not one of them. These people did not die for what they believed in, they died for their either their vanity or the unbending commandments of a corrupt system.

You cite Garfield's character arc as being the movie's greatest accomplishment. What is his character arc though? His faith wavers but never completely leaves him. He dies a believer in spite of his countless apostasies. That the crucifix will burn with him only signifies the disappearance of his secret along with his body to me. What is the film telling you? That it is okay to stop spreading the Gospel to save your skin even after thousands already burned in their refusal to deny it? That the only thing that matters at the end is that you were able to maintain your faith through every hurdle? That conviction is a matter of belief, not of words and acts? I cannot find an explanation of that character that justifies a more than two and a half hour movie , most of them would justify not making it in fact.
Title: Re: Silence
Post by: sdb_1970 on February 02, 2017, 01:59:36 PM
I feel so left out.  Two of my favorite posters and I can't join in. :'(

I feel left out, and I saw the film  :o ... my takeaway was limited to the whole faith v. compassion thing, but reading the discussion, I barely remember (from viewing a month ago) the details at this point other than the nagging feeling (notwithstanding my general enjoyment of seeing actors do different things) that Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver were miscast: Garfield because he somehow manages to look so good no matter what happens him, Driver because of his baggage (i.e., once you play the bad guy in the most popular films series of all time, your presence can become a distraction in certain kinds of films); and given the very nature of these characters, I think the film would have benefited from casting relative unknowns.
Title: Re: Silence
Post by: Junior on February 02, 2017, 03:41:00 PM
I see what you're saying about Garfield looking good at all times. He's a handsome and charismatic guy, which is hard to hide. Not quite Tom Cruise levels, but on that spectrum. I was still able to lose him enough in the role, though I can understand those who can't. I don't get the Star Wars thing as much, even if his outfit was kinda similar. I think Driver did enough to distinguish the petulant teen thing he had going on with Kylo Ren from what he was doing in this film.
Title: Re: Silence
Post by: corey.atad on February 06, 2017, 05:17:46 PM
The film (and the novel) is a very precisely an examination of whether Catholicism does demand martyrdom, and the morality not only of martyring oneself, but allowing it of others. It's the idea that there is at once something noble about dying for ones beliefs, but the sacrifice also not being "worth it" in a way. Catholicism, as Scorsese sees it in Silence and Last Temptation, is intrinsically earthbound. The calls of the higher power are grounded in lived experience as necessarily defined by the Trinity itself. It's thus an open question as to whether the duty to faith transcends life on earth, or whether life on earth is what makes faith transcendent.

The voice of God is important in that it isn't ethereal. It is maximally direct. It's that way in the novel, as well. It intrudes on the picture. Breaks the silence in a very literal way, and even then it leaves open the issue of his faith remaining only internal. What good is his belief system if he doesn't practice it outwardly. He dies clutching a cross, but is buried as a Japanese. There's nobility in the unwavering quality of that belief, but also a pointlessness, an ambiguity.
Title: Re: Silence
Post by: oneaprilday on February 06, 2017, 10:57:19 PM
There's nobility in the unwavering quality of that belief, but also a pointlessness, an ambiguity.
Love the way you put this, Corey. It captures the tension exactly.
Title: Re: Silence
Post by: DarkeningHumour on February 07, 2017, 05:16:03 AM
The film could have done loads more by insisting on that pointlessness/ambiguity.
Title: Silence
Post by: oldkid on August 02, 2017, 02:55:20 PM
Continuing discussion from the Top 100 Club.

oldkid's questions and Sam's responses:

Silence

Frankly, I have too many thoughts, all a jumble in my head, needing processing. So instead of a review, I propose,

A series of questions after watching Scorsese's film, Silence:

How is it that so many Christians struggle with the question of theodicy when Jesus actually promises his followers suffering? What do most Christians think the purpose of suffering is? Because Western Christianity thrives culturally and doesn't have to face true suffering. Hundreds of years of being the dominant ideology has created a complacent view of the Christian faith.

Is this going to go on the list of films I love but are too difficult to watch again? Possibly. It's a hard watch and I wouldn't begrudge anyone who didn't want to watch it again.

How is it dangerous to export a belief system, if it is not forced? Very dangerous.

How many of the details of this story is based on the real severe persecution of Christians in Japan? No idea. Based on a novel so maybe not that much.

Is missionary work simply colonialism?  Is evangelism simply cultural manipulation?  If so, how is that different than any other propaganda? I do wonder how much colonialism factors into Christian work. I've gotten into debates as to how much Christianity is understood as a result of Western philosophy instead of actual Biblical teachings by most Western Christians. There's more Plato than Paul in a lot of popular Christian beliefs.

I have a lot of problems with evangelism not so much that it's manipulative, but that it fails to meet people where they are but asks them to adhere to your way of the world...well, I guess that does sound a lot like cultural manipulation.

How is it different from other propaganda? Well, both of us believe that these teachings are true, so that makes a difference. Propaganda is usually built to deceive or manipulate while I believe true Christian teaching is supposed to illuminate the truth.




Who is this brilliant cinematographer who accomplishes such beauty with natural frames? (Oh, it's Rodrigo Pieto) Yup

Is it wisdom for a religious person to accept questions instead of concrete faith?
I think there will always be questions until we're in the full, unmasked presence of God.

What sort of sick individual would put this film on his top 100?
*raises hand*

Can we obtain an hour and a half version of this movie that I can show in every church to get conversations started?
Let's make a fan edit!

Is it coincidence that Liam Neeson is in this film and in The Mission which has to do with Jesuits set in South America about a hundred years after Silence?  Does the Jesuit priest in question have a time machine?
Still haven't seen The Mission. No idea.

Is the padre hearing the voice of God or simply creating an excuse to allow him to end suffering? I won't presume to answer this question as I think it's one of the key central ambiguities of this film

Is it possible that Scorsese is my favorite religious director?
I do need to catch up with Last Temptation and rewatch Mean Streets, but he does have some astounding religious moments in some of his films and I'd love to see someone write about that.
Title: Re: Silence
Post by: oldkid on August 02, 2017, 02:56:19 PM
DarkeningHumour's response:

On the topic of Silence:

You're both dismissing the possibility that Garfield is genuinely hearing a voice but that that voice is generated but hallucinations instead of being an instance of Yahweh getting chatty.

The movie is based on a novel that was based on a real story. My understanding, from what I remember reading earlier this year, is that the characters in the movie were real and the novel was written from an account given by an European merchant in one of his journals ; the sort of man you see in the end of the movie trading with the Japanese. The film is supposed to be quite true to what was going on in Japan at the time, if not the actual lives of these particular people.

I don't like the term cultural manipulation. It doesn't mean much to me. Manipulation is about playing with the strings about a doll to make it go one way or another. Evangelism and missionary work are different practices ; they're about sewing new strings onto the dolls, strings with the colour and fabric you like and that always pull in one specific direction.

The sowing can be peaceful or violent but ultimately it is always a form of conquest. Religion claims territory as would a nation. Peoples are asked to yield, not their lands but their very souls, which results in a new web of allegiance and a renewed distribution of resources. Religion is a meme, and the specificity of monotheism is that it is a genocidal meme that does not allow for competition. Its rival memes must be eradicated in the name of its dictates.

As for propaganda, that is the distribution of memes that aggrandise a person or a thing, which is what about half of any holy book amounts to.
Title: Re: Silence
Post by: oldkid on August 02, 2017, 03:48:57 PM
Ah, now it's on a spoiler thread, so I can take my shoes off and wiggle my toes.

My question about Garfield implied that he was hallucinating.  His brain would want him to survive, so would place the "voice of God" in him to give him a way out of observing the suffering.

Honestly, he seems like such a wimp.  Trust me, I don't care to watch suffering.  I've seen too much of it.  But at the same time, this false dichotomy of "you are making them suffer" is simply ridiculous.  It is the authorities making them suffer.  They have already proven that they would torture people, no matter what the result, so they will lie, have lied and in all probability are lying again.  This internal crisis is because he believes them this time, even though he has no reason to.

I agree with DH about evangelism being the distribution of memes.  If that is all it is, then it is no more dangerous than any other meme distribution.  Some will believe a meme, no matter how silly, and some will disbelieve a meme, no matter how convincing. 

I also didn't find the argument that Japanese soil was a swamp for Christianity to be convincing.  I did find the connection of Christianity to western imperialism to be very, very dangerous.  The fact is, when Christianity is connected to power, it is almost always bad.  A twisting of the original idea.  So when the only priests of a Japanese church are foreigners, then there's a serious problem, and it certainly looks like a cultural invasion.  Frankly, it IS a cultural invasion, no matter how it seems to the priests.

This is the struggle, I have with the film.  It is about personal belief when the real story is the interactions of social constructs. 

Still, I can't deny the amazing filmmaking.  I don't understand people who think this film is boring.  Perhaps because I am invested in the worldviews at stake, but certainly the stark contrast of the brutality and beauty is jaw-dropping. 
Title: Re: Silence
Post by: DarkeningHumour on August 03, 2017, 07:52:46 AM
How was there not already a thread for this movie? I am sure I talked a bunch about it with Junior.

I did not say evangelism was just the spreading of memes. It is the spreading of a set of totalitarian memes that are meant to replace the existing set. Christianity does not allow for coexistence with other faiths as did the old mysticisms. It is not a philosophy like Spinozism that people can store in their internal knowledge library ; it is an all or nothing proposition. The role of the missionary is to destroy the existing beliefs and replace them with a new bunch, which he is imperialistically convinced to be superior.

I don't understand your point about Garfield before the Japanese. The question of suffering in a world with a supposedly benevolent demiurge is a pertinent one - perhaps the most pertinent of all - regardless of whether it is mentioned in the scriptures that all the pain and woe was always very  much on the menu.

The question of Japan's ability to receive Western memes is the most interesting (the only interesting) idea in the movie. Then English patient's speech about the inability of the priests to translate European concepts into Japanese and to explain the real essence of the scriptures opens a door unto a fascinating perspective that the movie unfortunately barely explores.
Title: Re: Silence
Post by: 1SO on August 03, 2017, 09:18:51 AM
Perhaps a Mod could merge this with the other Spoiler thread (http://forum.filmspotting.net/index.php?topic=14272.0).
Title: Re: Silence
Post by: Sam the Cinema Snob on August 03, 2017, 09:19:26 AM
My question about Garfield implied that he was hallucinating.  His brain would want him to survive, so would place the "voice of God" in him to give him a way out of observing the suffering.
Perhaps. But I'd also like to think that the people who scorned and crucified Christ were the very people he came to save. I think that Garfield stepping on the image of God is reminiscent of that human spite against God and Christ's acceptance and love through that spite.
Title: Re: Silence
Post by: DarkeningHumour on August 03, 2017, 10:13:13 AM
He saved someone's life by doing that but you choose to interpret it as a spiteful gesture?
Title: Re: Silence
Post by: oldkid on August 03, 2017, 12:20:59 PM
Perhaps a Mod could merge this with the other Spoiler thread (http://forum.filmspotting.net/index.php?topic=14272.0).

I apologize.  I didn't look far enough.
Title: Re: Silence
Post by: oldkid on August 03, 2017, 01:14:59 PM
Lots of good discussion in this thread.  OAD, as usual, gets to the point and sharply indicates the main themes of the film.  Very helpful.

So, DH, let's talk a bit more, although I hate to force you in a conversation about a film you didn't care for that much.

I see what you are saying about totalitarian memes-- memes that demand the dismantling of other memes.  This is very much like colonialism.  And that would make it dangerous.  But not all evangelism is like this.  And in fact, I would say that evangelism that leads to martyrdom is not like this.  It is a meme passed from the powerless to the powerful, from the oppressed to the oppressor.  The system that refuses to empower their meme with violence (and I am certainly not saying that this represents Catholicism) isn't dangerous, but in danger.

I strongly disagree with you about Scorsese's choice to make the voice ambiguous.  I think it is brilliant and makes the film.  Garfield's growth is about his knowledge of God.  He thinks that God is all about loyalty, and so silence is the only answer he can receive.  After all, what else is there to say?  Be faithful and die is God's only message and there is nothing else to be said.  At that moment, Garfield has a theological revelation.  God is about faithfulness to one's fellow humans more than fealty to symbols of a Godhead.  Love is greater than sacrifice.  For Jesus, the sacrifice was love.   What I was thinking in that moment, listening to the suffering of the martyrs, is they died for Garfield's sin.  Because he was embracing faith over love.  So the film is fundamentally a theological film, and the action takes place in the man's mind. Garfield also sacrificed his life, his Christian life, for the sake of others.  His sacrifice was living.

Why does it matter that he lived and died as a Japanese, but held the handmade crucifix in his hands at burial?  Because his Japanese life WAS his life in God.  His surrender of his Christianity was his manner of living God's love for the sake of those who would otherwise die.  Those who died, died to change him.  The fact that he lived as a Japanese, was to save others.  Because love never looks the same in each generation.

Like Last Temptation, the protagonist makes a misstep in the name of life and faith.  In Temptation, it was to live an everyday Jewish life without the necessary sacrifice of one's life.  In Silence, it is refusing to die in order to live an everyday Japanese life.  But both are the paths God demands.

Because of this, it is essential that God's voice be potentially a hallucination and potentially real.  Because it is not just about God, but about our duty to humanity, the meaning of our lives.  Just like in Tree of Life, the nature of the universe is grace, even so when in these movie they talk about the will or command of God, they talk about the foundation of (at least) human life.  It is care for one's fellow human.  This isn't just the imaginations of a human being, but the course of our lives.
Title: Re: Silence
Post by: smirnoff on August 06, 2017, 10:25:09 PM
I have nothing insightful to add. I turned off the film after an hour or thereabouts. They had split up and Garfield was skulking around still. I just couldn't relate to the characters and the decisions they made which to me seemed arbitrary. "It's our duty to go save Liam Neeson"... ten minutes later "too bad for those guys, let's hide in the bushes". Why was finding Liam Neeson of all people so important? It felt really unimportant to me. Or within their value system it didn't seem like Liam Neeson ought to be considered a higher priority than anyone else. The whole journey just seemed reckless and unnecessary, not to mention being an absurd long-shot. I didn't see how they were duty bound, honour bound, faith bound, or any other kind of bound, unlike say Return to Paradise (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Return_to_Paradise_(1998_film)) which had all kinds of complicated motivators to return or not, and the struggle was real over what to do with the man they left behind. Garfield and the other guy's faith is basically just annoying because it trumped all the relatable human emotions... and for the parts I watched it hardly seemed like they were straining to keep their faith in the face of an unhelpful god (unlike say Salieri after an hour into Amadeus). They just had to tell themselves some verse, pray a bit and everything got reset... those guys who got crucified a distant memory.

But I think I could overlook all of that and get on board with the story if the basic goings on weren't so boring. The first 5 minutes that set the stage for their journey and gave the film an overall purpose was good, but from the time they land on the beach to the time I gave up watching could've been reduced to a 2-minute montage of snooping around and talking to locals and dodging the authorities. Instead it's stretched out into the most unhurried search and rescue film I've ever seen. They stop and set up churches along the way. Years seem to pass... or it felt like it. Uh guys are we still looking for Liam Neeson or is that just not a thing anymore? And they have nothing to go on. No clues. They seem to strike out in any direction. There's no sense of them getting any nearer or further from their goal in that first hour because nobody has any clue where they're going, everybody they talk to seems unreliable... It's bloody tedious to watch.
Title: Re: Silence
Post by: pixote on August 07, 2017, 12:25:07 PM
"too bad for those guys, let's hide in the bushes"

This would have been a much better title. :)

pixote
Title: Re: Silence
Post by: DarkeningHumour on August 08, 2017, 11:01:35 AM
Garfield and the other guy's faith is basically just annoying because it trumped all the relatable human emotions... and for the parts I watched it hardly seemed like they were straining to keep their faith in the face of an unhelpful god (unlike say Salieri after an hour into Amadeus).

Pretty much Catholicism in a nutshell.
Title: Re: Silence
Post by: DarkeningHumour on March 15, 2018, 09:34:44 AM
What happened to this movie during the nominations?
Title: Re: Silence
Post by: Junior on March 15, 2018, 12:32:31 PM
I nominated it for a few things but I don't really like nominating movies that I put on previous year end lists.
Title: Re: Silence
Post by: Sam the Cinema Snob on March 15, 2018, 04:38:26 PM
I missed out on voting and probably one of its biggest supporters.
Title: Re: Silence
Post by: oldkid on March 15, 2018, 10:30:31 PM
I nominated it for a couple things, but it just didn't have the pull, I guess.