mv5bmjy3otk0nja2nv5bml5banbnxkftztgwntg3mjc2mdi-_v1_sy1000_cr006401000_al_Adapted from a Japanese novel based on actual events in the 17th century, Martin Scorsese’s Silence is not for the faint-hearted in terms of both length and subject matter.

Telling the story of Jesuit priests heading to Japan to find out what happened to their mentor, it’s a meditation on the nature of faith and in particular what happens when that faith is sorely tested.

In this period Christianity was outlawed in Japan and a wave of persecutions took place leading to the deaths of many, those converted and the priests themselves. Although the film by necessity focuses on the brutality of the official response to what they see as a threat to their way of life, it also stresses the conviction of the Jesuits and the bravery of the local people who maintain their new religion in secret and help the priests in their quest.

It’s a difficult film to write about in some ways. I’m not a person of faith but that doesn’t mean that I can’t relate to the predicament the priests find themselves in, where their deeply held beliefs are challenged by threats to the wellbeing not of themselves, but of the people around them. It’s a philosophical piece which takes time to explore these questions without necessarily reaching a conclusion, and it’s clearly a very personal film for the director.

It’s a long film and I felt every single one of the 161 minutes it lasted, but the excellence of the performances (from Andrew Garfield and Liam Neeson in particular) and the beauty of the cinematography offset the worthy nature of the film. I found it difficult to engage with it on anything other than an intellectual level, but it’s an important film worth seeing. I’m glad I experienced it and Garfield deserves all the acting awards going, but it’s not one I would seek out again.