Trying to explicate all the resonances, nuances, brushstrokes and calibres that make up this staggering (yes, staggering) masterwork would take a long time, and it’s time I, sadly, don’t have. Needless to say, however, this is clearly what happens when you pair a filmmaker with material that he simply gets. Material that he adores, and will stop at nothing to do justice to. This is Scorsese the Wise leaving behind the fruits of his talents in the autumnal period of his life, when he has made film upon film and has honed his craft to such an extent that his progeny has already transcended his careful hands. This was what happened with the likes of Dreyer, Bresson, Kurosawa, Bergman—and now Scorsese has joined their ranks. Undoubtedly so.
Silence is about faith and Faith and the torturous struggle to contend with an overabundance of one and the relative absence of the other. It is about being fed morsels of the literal to the point of satiety, and then learning that those scraps were but mere mirages in the fog and having to cope with the ensuing hunger. It is about temperament and tempering, of understanding the limitations of what can and cannot happen in this cacophonous system of man. And it is a poetic reconciliation of weakness in spirit and will, and how a lack of fortitude is not the worst sin that man can fall to. It is a religious film in content, though it has the power to touch anyone willing to open up to contemplation of the human condition, and that’s why I think it’s both immensely difficult and undeniably triumphant in equal measure. It makes you work hard for the pearl cloistered in the shell, but the pearl is there, and it shines so beautifully once it’s located. One look is enough to say, This is the power and glory of cinema. This is my nourishment.
One last thing: the Japanese supporting cast is stupendous. There are a few bit parts that have only seconds of screentime, and yet I feel an entire film could be told with their characters because the actors deliver so much gravitas and emotion. The world-building is astonishing. Everyone knew what they were doing, and they did it so well. It was as though my theatre became seventeenth-century Japan in those few hours.
The rest can be told in silence.