- Product Rating -

Art House Asshole : Silence

| December 13, 2016

You know how when you’re wanting to go to the movie theater and you look up all the films that are showing and there are alway at least three that you’ve never heard of, let alone have any interest in seeing? Well, good news! I’ve seen those movies. I spend most of my theater experiences in art house theaters watching those movies that you’ve never heard of and then never watch. Yeah, I’m that hipster asshole. My goal with this is to spread information out about these films, that way you can decide one of the following. “That actually sounds pretty cool! I want to see that now!” or “Man, I’m glad I decided to go see the new superhero movie!”. So without further ado, here is my article and review of Silence.

This is a film that Martin Scorsese has been trying to make for over twenty years. He started making this film two years after The Last Temptation of Christ. This is surprising for a couple different reasons. One, upon watching this film the themes and character motivations are different from what Scorsese is known for. There is no crime, there is no anti-hero. If you were to show this film to someone who wasn’t obsessed with cinema, but someone who knew Martin Scorsese and Goodfellas and Taxi Driver and all of his other well-known films, I’m not sure if they would  be able to tell that this is a Scorsese film. I can tell, and we’ll get into that. But this is a step away from what Scorsese is known for. And that isn’t a bad thing.

Silence follows two Portuguese Priests who travel to Japan during the Shimabara Rebellion to save their mentor, who has apparently renounced God and the faith. First, let’s just get this out of the way, the film isn’t violent. This is the first instance of this being out of Scorsese’s wheelhouse. Yes, there is blood in parts, and I know that Scorsese doesn’t use hyper violence or gratuitous violence. But this film is a much more emotionally draining film. My god is this film depressing and intense. The film is essentially Christian Torture Porn. You see the main character’s faith pushed so far and the consequences for doing this. It is honestly numbing after awhile. And when there are violence and/or blood, it is used in such a way that it feels not only earned but as a final nail in a coffin. One of the deaths in the film is so moving because there isn’t any violence or blood. It just happens. And you just have to sit there and let it sink in.

The film is still Scorsese’s though. The big thing that allows you to see his vision is that camera movement. He still has his quick pans and dolly shots. To the point where I can see some people seeing it as distracting. It’s a double-edged sword. We have come so far with Scorsese that we associate those camera tricks with his fast paced action in Goodfellas and Wolf of Wall Street. It almost pulls me out when I see them in this film as the tone and subject matter is so different from his other films.

But this being a passion project for Scorsese makes sense as it is a filmmaker’s film. You can show your buddy Ralph who drives trucks for a living and has a Michael Bay film in his top ten films of all time Goodfellas and Ralph will love it. That is partly why Scorsese is so successful. He can make a fantastic film that non-film lovers can enjoy. This is a slow burning almost three-hour long film about a Priest trying to remain faithful. Ralph isn’t going to like this film. And I will tell you right now, this isn’t one of Scorsese’s best films. It is pretty middle-tier of his filmography. What I will say is that this is one of the, if not the, best shot film Scorsese has ever made. People have said that this is Scorsese’s epic. And they are right. The shots of Japan (which is actually Taiwan for budgeting reasons) are absolutely gorgeous. Every shot in this film feels like a painting from the time period this film takes place. The colors are gorgeous. The use of space is genius. I almost feel like everyone else this year shouldn’t even try, this is the best shot film this year without a doubt.

Very quickly, before we get into my problems with the film, I want to mention the sound design. I saw this with a couple of my friends and no one mentioned this to me but I want to mention it. This film sounds phenomenal. And for a film called Silence it should. I can’t recall if it had any kind of soundtrack or score outside of drums played by the characters (another Scorsese-ism that is missing), but the sound design almost carries this film. The tone is set by it. There were scenes that I felt cold because the characters felt cold and all of that is because of the sound design. So props to the sound department. My god was that amazing.

My only big issue with the film is that there is some pretty bad CGI in the film. There is one shot of them sailing to Japan that is pretty heavy CGI. And normally that wouldn’t be an issue, but for a film that shot on location for a majority of the process and looks gorgeous, that shot sticks out like a sore thumb. There is also another scene that involves a puddle that I would describe too much of to avoid spoilers, but my god is that the worst scene in the film because of the CGI in that scene. You will know what I mean once you see it. It is without a doubt the biggest problem with this film. Which isn’t big, but I rolled my eyes when that part happened.

There is also voice-over work throughout the film. The voice over is done my multiple people and multiple characters. And it is easy to get confused at parts. There were a couple different times that I thought to myself “Is this VO or is this what he is saying out loud?” and that can get confusing. And without spoiling something, there is a character at the end that has a VO that is one of the cheesier moments I’ve seen in a film this year. It is the scene where you understand why the film is called “Silence”, and I think it works for the most part. But the scene was pretty silly. Some of my friends weren’t bothered by this, so it might just be me being an asshole. But that is what I thought.

Overall, Silence is a great film that film-lovers will adore and casual movie-goers might be split on. It reminds me a lot of last years The Revenant. Some people will love it for the technicality. And others will just think it’s a waste of three hours of their life. How you decide really depends on how you look at movies. And I’m not going to tell you what you should think.

About the Author:

Henry Jarvis is the youngest member of the Reel Nerds. His favorite films include Space Jam and Dude, Where’s My Car? and Lawrence of Arabia. He enjoys those pretentious art house films that Ryan hates. He sees a lot of movies! Honestly more than he should. He replaces his lack of social skills and meaningful friendships with his love of cinema! He’s also crying while he writes this biography for himself. His favorite directors are Andrei Tarkovsky, David Fincher, and David Lean.
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