Martin Scorsese’s ‘Silence’ a masterpiece, must-see for Catholics

silence-adam-driver-trailer

One would think that a Martin Scorsese film with a ready-made audience of 1.1 billion Catholics would be a no-brainer in terms of marketing. Strangely, the money men behind the director’s latest masterpiece, Silence, decided to go with an “art house” angle instead of any serious outreach to those who could make it a smash hit. The decision will cost the film millions during its theatrical run, but that still does not change the fact that it is a must-see effort by the man who brought the world Taxi Driver (1976), Raging Bull (1980), and a slew of other great projects.

silence-trailer

For those who are unfamiliar with the plot of the movie, which is based on a Shûsaku Endô’s 1966 novel, it involves two 17th century Jesuit missionaries who must look for their mentor in Japan. As an “army of two” they must find out if there is truth to the claim that their mentor rejected the faith after years of torment by officials.

Mr. Scorsese recently said that “three or four great actors” turned down roles for Father Cristóvão Ferreira (Liam Neeson), Father Sebastião Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) and Father Francisco Garupe (Adam Driver). After watching the film (How much do you want to bet that one of those actors was Leonardo DiCaprio?), it is safe to say that it was probably a blessing in disguise. Everyone involved delivers, particularly Mr. Garfield.

In short, see the movie if you are a fan of cinema — real cinema. Those with an attention span shaped by years of time on Twitter will be nowhere to be found, and you will exit the theater better for the experience.

silence-trailer-andrew-garfield

“Doug, Doug, Doug, you need to give me more than that,” you say? Yes, I understand. That is a reasonable request, and since I do not want to spoil too much of the film I will just say that the central question is one that I have covered before on this blog: Why does God seem absent at times?

When we go through trials and tribulations and pray, silence can be incredibly frustrating. People want God to be the cartoonish figure with a big white beard — they want Him to be a material being — and the absence of an on-call Divine Psychiatrist causes many men to believe they are alone in the world.

As Hubert Van Zeller has said, “We always imagine that if we felt strong, we would not mind having to carry the Cross. But the whole point is that we should not feel strong.”

Silence, perhaps to the chagrin of many priests, will cause people to question their own faith — but that is a good thing because the Truth can and should be able to stand up to any scrutiny. The faith that has gone through an intellectual blast furnace and survived comes out on the other side a spiritual steel, which is exactly what is needed in the modern world. Catholics need to intimately understand the value of pain and why such ordeals allowed by our Creator are always a blessing (as tough as that may be to comprehend).

As C.S. Lewis says in The Problem of Pain:

“Kindness consents very readily to the removal of its object — we have all met people whose kindness to animals is constantly leading them to kill animals lest they should suffer. Kindness, merely as such, cares not whether its object becomes good or bad, provided only that it escapes suffering.

As Scripture points out, it is bastards who are spoiled: the legitimate sons, who are to carry on the family tradition, are punished. It is for people whom we care nothing about that we demand happiness on any terms: with our friends, our lovers, our children, we are exacting and would rather see them suffer much than be happy in contemptible and estranging modes.

If God is Love, He is, by definition, something more than mere kindness. And it appears from all the records, that though He has often rebuked us and condemned us, He has never regarded us with contempt. He has paid us the intolerable compliment of loving us, in the deepest, most tragic, most inexorable sense.” — C.S. Lewis.

Silence is not for the faint of heart, but at the end of the day it forces religious viewers to objectively examine the strength of their own faith.

Would you drown before renouncing God? Would you burn? Would you die any number of gruesome deaths? If not, then why?

Very few men or women ever die a saint, but that reality does not free us from the obligation to try. Mr. Scorsese may have a complicated history with his Catholic upbringing (he is certainly not alone), but there should be no doubt about the quality of Silence. Hollywood producers discouraged him from making the film for decades, but he persevered. For that, moviegoers owe him a debt of gratitude.

Advertisements

‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2’: Come for the story, stay to laugh at the special effects?

When trailer for The Amazing Spider-Man came out a few years ago, I was generally impressed with the product. While I felt there was absolutely no need to reboot the franchise after the supreme letdown that was ‘Spider-Man 3’ (aside from Sony’s desire to keep the rights from falling into Marvel’s hands), the trailer did pique my interest. Notably, in two-and-a-half minutes there were very little special effects — aside from the first-person point of view shots that begin at 1:43. With ‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2’ there are plenty of special effects teasers, and they’re pretty cringe-worthy. Will I go for the story, which does look interesting, but stay to laugh at the special effects? We shall see.

Before delving into the special effects, one first needs to discuss the “villain” concern. There are three of them — and everyone knows that packing a movie with too many villains is a dangerous endeavor. Director Marc Webb seems like a nice guy — but can he juggle? That’s the big question. When it comes to creativity, that’s up for debate.

Take, for instance, his reasoning behind the “Rhino” armor:

Marc Webb: One of the tricky things to translating characters from the comics that work in illustrations into the three-dimensional reality on a New York street — and often things that work quite well as a drawing — [is that they] don’t make sense in the physical world. And so, we wanted to make Rhino into something as powerful he is in the comics, and as sort of simple minded and direct as he is in the comics but with a suit that felt of this world. There’s certain hints about its creation. It’s only teased in the movie. It’s not really a big part of the film. I wanted something to create something that felt majestic and quite powerful but something Aleksei could have put together himself.

On some level, he makes sense. On another, it’s a complete cop-out. The trailer highlights quite clearly that they went with all sorts ideas that “don’t make sense in the physical world.” The challenge for the director is to figure out a way to make it work. Correction: In this case it’s up to the director and Sony Imageworks to figure it out. If they didn’t have the budget or the time to do Rhino properly, maybe they shouldn’t have done him at all.

Rhino Amazing Spider Man 2

As it stands, the walking tank outfit looks bad. Oscorp is genetically engineering everyone in the film accept the guy who calls himself “Rhino”? One would think that Oscorp would be keen on developing technology that would allow soldiers to coat themselves in Rhino-like skin. Get in bed with the government and the Department of Defense and it’s even harder to bring you down, right? I guess not.

Amazing Spider Man 2 Rhino fight

The images released for the trailer look like something straight from a Playstation or XBox game, and in some cases they look worse.

Amazing Spider Man 2 web swing

Do the special effects make Spidey look like The Amazing Rubber-Man, or am I just getting old, picky and spoiled? It’s hard to complain about Spider-Man movies when you’re old enough to remember a time when they didn’t exist… Maybe I should just count my blessings and focus on the positive — namely, the story.

As it pertains to creating intrigue, Mr. Webb gets high marks:

Marc Webb: I don’t want to reveal to much of the plot but Peter learns things about his past, and at one point his future, provocative ways.

“Secrets have a cost, but the truth does to.’ I think there’s a line that Aunt May said in the first move, which was: “Secrets have a cost, Peter.” We recap that line and re-imagine it a little bit. She said ‘I once told you that secrets have a cost, but the truth does too,’which means that any way you cut it there’s going to be challenges ahead.

The big prominent villain in the film is Electro, but there are many adversaries Spider-Man is going to have to face. But the evil empire — the consistent thing between them all — is the evil empire known as Oscorp, or what’s becoming this evil empire. And I think that’s something that may inform people’s viewing of the trailer. Questions will be answered. … I wouldn’t say it’s a dark movie, but there is very powerful forces at work that are emanating from Oscorp. Oscorp is the place from which all nasty things emerge in this movie, and Spider-Man is going to have to confront that.

The Amazing Spider-Man trailer is awkward, because every time there are real actors on the screen a sense of mystery is there. Dane DeHaan has the “it” factor. He really seems like an intelligent kid with a dark, dark side to him. Dare I say it? They should have dumped Electro and just went straight to the Green Goblin.

Dane DeHaan Harry Osborn

Aunt May’s “secrets have a cost” line works well as shots of Peter’s ‘A Beautiful Mind’/John Nash-ish room and Richard Parker’s subterranean lair flash across the screen.

Andrew Garfield Amazing Spider Man 2

Who is that guy in the shadows with the hat walking by The Vulture’s and Doctor Octopus’ gear? The kid in me is begging my adult side to run to the ATM.

Amazing Spider Man 2 Vulture Doctor Octopus

Sadly, for every moment worth getting excited about there are two or three cheesy special effects that induce a wince. Electro (or was that Superman Blue?) looks silly, and the Goblin costume looks like it was put together by someone with a do-it-yourself goblin kit. If ‘Captain America’ could pull off Red Skull, there’s really no excuse why Sony couldn’t make the Green Goblin respectable. It would be a shame if because of self-imposed tight shooting schedules and release dates that fans get half-baked villains for one of America’s coolest superheroes.

At the end of the day, the trailer for ‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2’ is a mixed bag. Will Jamie Foxx turn out a performance of ‘Django Unchained’ caliber, or … ‘Booty Call’? Will the special effects sink the film, or is Spider-Man popular enough around the world at this point in time that it’s almost impossible for his movies not to at least break even? Perhaps the second trailer will make its box office potential clearer.

Watch the trailer below if you haven’t seen it and let me know what you think.

Related: Will ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’ be the must-see blame America movie of the summer?