Sunday, March 29, 2020

The Deafening Sound of Silence and The Virtues of Failure: Why Everybody Lives by a Code and Nobody is Ever Completely Right

There are very few films I can recall that sent a chill down my spine after watching them, but as I sat watching the credits roll for Silence, I felt that familiar vibration creeping across my vertebrae. It wasn't that the story of two 17th Century, Portuguese, Jesuit priests travelling to Japan to search for their missing mentor who was rumoured to have rejected his faith while at the same time engage in missionary work themselves to promote Catholicism was some kind of a white-knuckle, thrill-a-minute adventure.

Quite the opposite, Silence was a (for the most part) quiet meditation on faith and spirituality by Martin Scorsese, who has wrestled with his own faith throughout his life. This has been a common theme in many of his films, probably most notably The Last Temptation of Christ and Kundun, which comprise the other two thirds of the unofficial Scorsese spirituality trilogy. Also notably, and kind of appropriately, the public response to Silence seemed a lot more subdued compared with Last Temptation or Kundun, both of which stirred up considerable controversy at the times of their release, with Scorsese even being banned from China for a time after the release of Kundun. I don't know if that's saying too much these days; if you sneeze in the wrong direction you're liable to attract the ire of the Chinese government (or, you know, if you're gay or a ghost, or perhaps worst of all, a gay ghost).

For some reason, despite his vast and varied catalogue of films, it seems that from recent online discussions, people seem to have superficially associated Scorsese mostly with subject matter relating to organized crime. Although several of his films do deal specifically with the Mafia or some type of organized crime, these specific settings and characters are a pastiche of what Scorsese witnessed growing up in New York, and a lens through which he explores themes and concepts that run a little deeper than whether snitches do, in fact, get stitches.