Review by Dash Wilson.
Two seventeenth-century priests (Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver) leave Portugal for Japan to try and find a third priest (Liam Neeson) who has gone missing whilst working as a missionary. A historical drama, directed by Martin Scorsese, set in Japan and featuring two of Hollywood’s best upcoming actors should have been a smash hit. Somehow, the result was quite the opposite with the film currently only recouping $13 million of its $40 million budget.
Whilst I watched Silence (in an empty cinema), I was struck by its quiet beauty. Intelligently, Scorsese has recruited Rodrigo Prieto AMC ASC (Brokeback Mountain, Babel, Argo) as the cinematographer of this film and the result is mesmerising. Shot mainly on 35mm film instead of digital, the film was filmed entirely in Taiwan but set in Japan. Prieto uses naturalism with repeated use of fog and fire to create an aesthetic that whilst subtle, is a perfect backdrop for the performances on the screen.
Prieto should win the Oscar for his body of work alone. Silence, whilst sometimes hard work for the viewer, especially at 161 minutes, is full of conviction and is yet another entry to both Prieto and Scorsese’s filmography that deserves to be recognised.
This is clearly a passion project of Scorsese which has been in-development since 1990, and whilst it is beautiful to look at and it is story that needs to be told. It somehow lacks that cinematic punch needed to the garner widespread appeal it probably should have received.
Reviewing all five films nominated for the Academy Award for Best Cinematography in 2017, Dash Wilson is a film-lover based in Brisbane and is the resident Film Critic for Australian Cinematographer Magazine.