Author Topic: Silence  (Read 783 times)

oneaprilday

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Re: Silence
« Reply #20 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)?

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Re: Silence
« Reply #21 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.
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Re: Silence
« Reply #22 on: February 02, 2017, 03:06:13 AM »
I feel so left out.  Two of my favorite posters and I can't join in. :'(
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Re: Silence
« Reply #23 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.
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sdb_1970

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Re: Silence
« Reply #24 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.
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Re: Silence
« Reply #25 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.
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corey.atad

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Re: Silence
« Reply #26 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.

oneaprilday

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Re: Silence
« Reply #27 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.

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Re: Silence
« Reply #28 on: February 07, 2017, 05:16:03 AM »
The film could have done loads more by insisting on that pointlessness/ambiguity.
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oldkid

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Silence
« Reply #29 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.
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