Silence Blu-ray Review
The conclusion of Scorsese's religious 'trilogy' is good but far from great.
Scorsese's quarter-century-in-the-making passion project Silence is ultimately and disappointingly another unnecessary remake.Twenty-seven years on, and the latest generation of Scorsese fans may not remember his 1990 masterpiece The Last Temptation of Christ, let alone his flawed 1997 religious follow-up, Kundun, so it's hard to put Silence into context as either a conclusion to his unofficial religious trilogy, or a film which has been in the making for the best part of 3 decades. Indeed, uttering the name in the same breath as his 1990 gem should raise expectations to an almost impossible level. Unfortunately Scorsese's adaptation of Shusaku Endo's acclaimed novel and de facto remake of the 1971 Japanese adaptation of the same, feels nothing like a long-gestating masterpiece. And, indeed, a more cynical view would be that he'd run out of time to make it - having delayed production over half a dozen times, lost his initial stars, and even been sued by the production company for failure to deliver.So this may not be the Silence that he wanted us to see; with longtime editing collaborator Thelma Shoonmaker on far from fine form; a complete lack of score; pacing issues; and ultimately a story which adds little to the 1971 classic first adaptation. Worse still, rather than considered, Scorsese's approach to the material is confused - flitting between observations on faith and religious fidelity; and on the suffering of the self and others 'in the name of God', and ultimately struggling to countenance its contradictions or coalesce into a substantive piece. Nevertheless there are some great performances he's again elicited from the least expected corners - Andrew Garfield on impressive form and Adam Driver in fierce support - and hints of his trademark flourishes in long, wide, panning, and spinning shots; and a bevvy of interesting questions posed by the material which offer contemplation after the credits roll.
Picture QualitySilence reaches UK shores with a Region B-locked Blu-ray that sports a suitably filmic 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation framed in the movie's original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.40:1 widescreen. It's no surprise really, as it was shot on film, but, despite the movie's - and production's - flaws, the visuals are still impressive.
Despite the movie's flaws, the visuals are still impressive
Detail is excellent, notwithstanding some of the stylistic choices made, which are often softer around the edges; clarity is basically there whenever it is intended to be, whether on the finer close-ups or the broader landscapes. Similarly the choice over setting largely dictates a muted colour palette which, despite some vibrant greens, is largely dour. Nevertheless, tones are naturally rendered, with evident richness, and black levels are strong and deep, allowing for impressive shadow detail. Overall it's a great looking piece.
Sound QualityThe accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track, despite the inherent limitations of the source material, is still very observant of some acute sound design, rendering a pristine, precise aural accompaniment which is wondrously fine-tuned.
Dialogue remains prioritised across the frontal array - although there isn't a huge wordcount - rendered clearly and coherently across the fronts and centre channels. The score is non-existent, perhaps to emphasise the title of the piece, or perhaps to further embrace the period setting, but some might consider this one of the film's biggest flaws, and it certainly doesn't help the audio track to perform, however the effects are where it really comes into its own. Although there's nothing grandstanding or bombastic - it's not exactly that kind of film - the effects that are on offer are finely observed, right from the opening dip into 'silence' which highlights just how acute the sound design is. Crashing waves, stomping horse hooves, chirping insects; your living room is eminently transported into this feudal setting thanks to this atmospheric mix. It's deceptively impressive.
ExtrasThe 25 minute Martin Scorsese's Journey Into Silence is a strong but limited Featurette which dips into all of the requisite production points, from the film's production history to the relevant period in Japan, the themes and characters; the performances and tough shoot.
Blu-ray VerdictThis may not be the Silence he wanted us to see
It's an accomplished filmmaker doing a good job, with some great performances, and that alone leaves it worth seeing. And to add to that it covers a very interesting subject wrought with contemplation and controversy - from the analogous sub-arc highlighting the flaws but also the mission statement in the Catholic confessional, to the posed questions over sacrifice and faith versus needless suffering, to the very arrogant notion of imposing 'The Truth' in terms of a foreign set of beliefs in a country which already has its own. But from Scorsese, we expect more. We expect great. And this isn't it.
The UK Blu-ray offers up excellent video and audio but only a single extra, leaving it a must-have purchase for fans of the film but likely otherwise a rental to test the waters.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £17.99
Our Review Ethos
To comment on what you've read here, click the Discussion tab and post a reply.