Silence ★★★★★

Most spiritually-themed movies present a show of beauty, a glorious vision of spirit, but Silence explores the dark night of the soul, the suffering of spiritual doubt, and the feelings of being forsaken. Martin Scorsese’s filmic spiritual journey is like his Akira Kurosawa film. It’s sensual, open-ended, reflective, and, like a good teacher, it makes you ask questions.

The story, based on Shusaku Endo’s book of the same title, follows two priests, or padres, but focuses on one man, Padre Rodrigues, brilliantly played by Andrew Garfield. Rodrigues and his fellow padre, Garrpe (Adam Driver), head off to Japan to find their mentor, Ferreira (Liam Neeson). Japanese officials have been killing Christians to preserve the religion of their homeland. The Catholic priests set out on a dangerous quest to continue their mission. The two are confronted with the terrifying reality of their potential deaths by beheading and of the heavy responsibilities of bringing hope to the local faithful. One can’t help but think of the contemporary persecutions of many religions and how each has been on both the receiving and the giving end of violence over millennia. But a man’s religion is not the same as a man’s spirit. Spirit rests in a deeper place, free from worldly ways. Rodrigues is driven to open himself to the most profound level of that resting place.

Great movies give you something to think about afterwards. In this regard, Silence runs deep. Many ideas, issues, and ethical questions arise in its running time and there is much to ponder, not least of which is -- what would I do? When faith or the renunciation of faith become literally a matter of life and death, would we stand firm and die, or lie? We, and Padre Rodrigues, also have to battle with our question, what would Jesus do?

Other questions occur, such as, what is mercy? How can one forgive? What use is suffering? Just as we’re noticing that Andrew Garfield’s character is starting to look like Jesus, Rodrigues is directly accused of egotistically imitating Jesus. Thankfully, the film never preaches. The questions and the answers, as a good teacher is well aware, are best left to you.

Silence, in an overview of Scorsese’s career, is a personal and integral work and will be regarded as essential.

Silence, in Buddhism and Christianity and all great religions, is at the core of spiritual yearning. When our ideas and ambitions and questions come to a terminus, ever-present silence remains.