Questions from “Silence” are loud ones

January is my least favorite month because it tends to drag on and on. The weather does not help, everyone is eating healthier and working out and most people are trying to keep their resolutions. It’s a drag, really, trying to better oneself.
Yet one thing about January that I do enjoy is the list of Oscar nominations that come out. And on Jan. 23, the Academy Awards released their nominations. I am not surprised to see most of those up for best picture, including “La La Land” (of course), “Moonlight”, “Fences” and gasp, “Hidden Figures”, the true story of the a team of African American women who helped launch the NASA space endeavors to the moon. And although I have seen every movie in the Best Picture list (minus “Hidden Figures”), I am lukewarm over the fact that one of my top director’s passion project has been shut out from the nominations.
Martin Scorsese’s “Silence” tells the story of two priests, Father Rodrigues (played by Andrew Garfield of “The Amazing Spider-Man” and “Hacksaw Ridge”) and Father Garupe (played by Adam Driver, side character on HBO’s “Girls” and Kylo Ren from “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”). These two Jesuit priests, having heard that a mentor of the Catholic Church, Father Ferreira (Liam Neeson) has blasphemed the Church and is missing in Japan, set out on a quest to find him. There, they are surrounded by torture, lies and having to uphold the customs and traditions of the Japanese people. The film took over 25 years to make and is a passion project for Scorsese, who adapted the screenplay from a 1966 novel by author Shusaku Endo of the same name.
As Father Rodrigues and Father Garupe arrive to Japan, they realize that Jesuit followers are hiding throughout small, remote villages, not truly understanding the Catholic faith but eager to take the sacrament and hold the rosary that Father Rodrigues owns. And as the Japanese government find out where these subgroups of Catholics are hiding, they capture Father Rodrigues and hold him captive with other prisoners, subjecting him to torture and watching the agony of others in hopes of getting him to finally step on the face of Christ and denounce his faith.
Although a quiet movie, “Silence” gives its loudest message for any viewer of any religion: How do we handle doubt? And, if we have faith in anything, how should we feel when no one is answering our prayers? In those three painfully quiet hours in the theatre, I had to turn my cell phone off and go on a journey not only with these characters but in my own mind of belief. I identified with several of them, as in life you’re either a martyr, a Judas, a doubter or someone who does not acknowledge the existence of faith. And no matter your faith or religious preference, almost anyone can identify with Scorsese’s conflicting message. And in the ambiguous, final shots of the film, you are unsure of whether or not to applaud or to sit in your chair quietly, in reverence of what you have just observed.
I am disappointed that “Silence” has been shut out of Oscar nominations because it is truly the most human experience I have had in the theater since 2014’s “Her”, directed by Spike Jonze, which takes a look at how humans react to their technology.
Simply stated, I love “Silence”. I love its conflicting message on faith, doubt and religion. I love that Scorsese is a Catholic filmmaker who has made a wide array of wonderful films such as “Taxi Driver”, “Hugo” and “The Wolf of Wall Street” (the man has directed over 65 films though, so I cannot accurately list all of his masterpiece titles) and who has finally made this ongoing passion project. But most importantly, I love that this film debuted in 2016, where 2016 was the toughest year for myself and many fellow Americans. I love that this patiently paced, quiet movie has arrived to challenge me.
“Silence” is playing this weekend at Century Movie Theaters. It is rated R for violence and some thematic elements.