A real hair-shirt of a movie.
There are but two images in this movie – landscapes of stupendous exaltation, and sharp, cruel, human torture. I suppose, in the universe, the Cross sits squarely between the two. And there is nothing else. Rare is a movie of such inflexible, unprepossessing and intimidating posture. A more devout film I cannot figure, in subject and in being. It hurts, this film hurts, and it does not smile once. A maker might, seeing his film turning into a tough log, concede to some comedy. But this film is made and performed with totally seriousness.
It’s made with a teetotal measurement, abstemiously paced and, most importantly, guilty. Scorsese made such blazing films, they seemed always on the verge of some psychic/celluloid orgasm. He was proud and lustful in his craft, and unholy in his abilities. Keitel’s head three times hitting his pillow; little mordents and trills, full of heat and juice: great, keen Cinema. (Only two such glints in this film… perhaps one and a half… Garfield throwing himself down, quarter-speed, onto the effigy plate, and Garfield seeing a holy face for his own, in river-light.)
I refrain from praising Silence outright perhaps for this reason. I am unsure of the integrity of cinema within this three-hour loop of celluloid, barren celluloid. It’s ‘cinematic’, sure, but God knows how little that has to do with the pulse of cinema. If cinematic’s what you’re into go look up Géricault or J.L. David. I suppose in the frames of this movie, the mountains and beaches are its graven images…
But otherwise – no – there is not much of a film here, ‘film’ of the flesh Scorsese’s midwifery exacted from the rubble of America. The yarn is cold granite, high above the tree-line where the air is thin, and plants can’t catch root, but guilt may. The camera watches cold and hard. Half the stock has been dedicated to observing in close-up the dogma, the lived process of it all, the ecstatic hands; faith acted-out. The other half, dedicated to a howling wind.
An apology, then, is this? Some heavy absolution? Scorsese is seventy-four now – not wildly old, I suppose, but old enough to see time moving both ways. One, then, must assume that this film is a delicate and private object that Mr. S has made in a spirit of incommunicable need. How should a film appear that takes up the hollow horror of faith? What does the existentialist’s scream into a pillow look like? They say that repetition upon repetition, into discomfort, buries the mind in some deep, meditative place. There’s an incantatory beat to the footsteps; extending the movie past tolerance-length is all part of it. The film stretches and groans itself to such a domed expanse, everything inside it echoes and hums like a planetarium. Remember the pain of the Mother and Son.
Drama, History | USA, 2016 | 15 | 1st January 2017 (UK)| Studiocanal | Dir:Martin Scorsese | Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver, Liam Neeson,Tadanobu Asano, Ciaran Hinds, Shin’ya Tsukamoto