This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Dominic Cobb’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
I used to believe that if one didn't have a favorite film, they were cowardly about their opinions on film and couldn't state their opinion. I have a pseudo-brother who raves about The Lion King, but he wouldn't say that it was his favorite movie, despite it being practically the only movie he would rave about without prompt.
During this time, I would debate with myself about what my favorite movie was. I had a night where I watched Magnolia and followed it up with <The Grand Budapest Hotel (if I remember correctly, could've been A Serious Man) to determine which I liked more. I deliberated endlessly over which was the better movie in my eyes.
These days, I realize that I was foolish. These days, I realize that the closest I can get to a favorite movie is a list of my top ten favorites, which requires similar deliberation. Do I toss aside Goodfellas to include Fitzcarraldo? (Answer: Yes, I did. I'm so sorry, Scorsese).
But fortunately, Scorsese still has a place on the list in the form of this movie. Silence is one of the most unparalleled, deeply spiritual, and deeply understood cinematic experiences I've ever had. I stated in my last review that faith is vitally important to my life, and wrestling with doubts is an important part of faith. If there are no doubts, ever, then there's no faith, plain and simple. And this movie - like Scorsese himself, I would presume - is wrestling hard with those ideas.
By the way, I am drinking another Irish Death tonight. My favorite beer, highly recommended. 7.8% alcohol percentage. Oof. Also currently listening to Thom Yorke's Anima. Also oof.
Back to it: when watching your average movie, you're sometimes uncertain of a filmmaker's intent. Why did he show me that? What was his intent there? Why is it edited this way?
But with Silence, there was none of that. Now, of course, the mystery behind intent CAN definitely be a positive aspect of a movie. But when you intimately understand the intent of certain shots or of certain lines, not because they're plain and simple but because you can relate and understand where the filmmaker is coming from? That's the ground for a very personal and emotional experience.
And that's exactly how it was with Silence when I watched it. I'd made it most of the way through the book when I saw it in theaters in early 2017. I'd read the synopsis. I was aware of the history and knew what was coming. But I was still totally blown away, probably moreso than I have been with any movie, period. From the first shot, I was deep in. It was awards season so I admit, I had downloaded a screener, and I watched the first couple minutes - restraining myself was a struggle - on a phone. Criminal (in more than one sense), I know, but I couldn't help myself. And just the way that Scorsese shot the scene, the intimacy...
I can maybe understand how, if you aren't religious yourself, this movie may not have much. But for those who are religious or have even been religious in the past, this movie should strike many chords. It's one of the greatest works of art, period. Goes up against anything in my book, be it all the works of art in terms of music, literature, paintings, whatever. It's one of the most solid, impenetrable movies I've ever seen. And it's not so much that it has a message, but it... I felt it. I felt it so much.
In religious circles, it's insanely controversial, like Scorsese's most vocally Christian/Catholic film, The Last Temptation of Christ (also a masterpiece). But I feel like it's so deeply... fuck, I don't know. I can't even describe this masterpiece. It's something really, really special to me. This is going to sound corny, but if anything, it's deepened my faith immeasurably. And it's not simplistic or condemning of those with different opinions like so many cookie-cutter Christian films these days. It's clearly made by someone who understands the struggles of doubt, the struggles of where one's motivations come from, the struggles of personal purity and faithful obedience. That sounds abstract - and again, I'm a tad tipsy - but it's... something.
I talked with a friend about this, and she was compelled by how Rodriguez sacrificed his salvation or relationship with Christ by trampling on the image to save the prisoners. But I disagree: I feel like the struggle in this scene, and through much of the film, was that Rodriguez so deeply loved Christ that he couldn't bear to betray this by trampling. He felt like, as Matthew, he would be denying Christ in person but not in spirit, and he hated that idea. He didn't want to tell Christ that he didn't love him totally because he felt the opposite so fully. I mean, the fact that denying Christ isn't even the unforgivable sin is something to be considered. I don't think Rodriguez was concerned about his salvation at all, but more what was the right thing to do - and he really didn't know for sure what it was.
This movie can't be summed up in a review. It can't be summed up in the book its based on. It can't be summed up in all the words you could give it. It's one of the most singular, beautiful, torturous, enigmatic and personal films ever made, and it deserves all the praise I could give it. Absolute perfection.