“The moment you set foot in that country, you step into high danger.”
A conundrum for you to ponder on this, the first day of 2017.Can a flawed masterpiece actually exist? Can a film that is of a supreme status yet isn’t perfect still be labelled as a type of masterpiece? If it can than ‘Silence’, my first cinema outing of the new year and of a film of seminal standard of incredible quality, surely fits the title of ‘flawed masterpiece’.
It isn’t perfect. The pacing slackens throughout the film to such an extent it becomes an almost tortuous watch. Several sequences are so unrelenting in their brutality that they almost lose meaning. It has a running time of 161 minutes. And yet. This film has a magnetic quality, a certain something that is almost undefinable, that ascribes it a status beyond most big screen fare. It’s unlike anything I’ve seen before yet words seem unable to allow me to truly explain why.
There’s the incredible story that is overwhelmingly potent with emotion and spirituality – enlightening in unexpected and unconscious ways. There’s Andrew Garfield’s masterful leading man performance (the film was preceded by this trailer for Hacksaw Ridge – 2017 could very well be the year of Garfield) which is a raw powerhouse of a performance. There’s the brief practically cameo-esque appearance by Ciarán Hinds for whom I have a huge soft spot. Or perhaps it’s the story and the way Scorsese tells it.
I’m not sure I can define what the films takeaway message is, but then I’m not sure I need to. Good film. Great film. Masterpiece film creates a feeling – a transformative feeling that captivates and sustains. ‘Silence’ does that completely. This is being billed as an intense watch and that’s something of an understatement. It has an edge that builds throughout the film to almost unbearable levels as we watch the innate endurance of human nature and belief being tested to frequently shocking levels.
However, for a film with so much brutality – both physical and emotional – there is a stillness at its centre. A film could not consider masterpiece status if it was all darkness, all edge and power. There are moments of quiet light – of silence and contemplation – that conquer the darkest shadows. Less a film to be watched, rather one that needs to be experienced.
Dir: Martin Scorsese
Year: 2016 Run time:161 minutes