I wonder if the script and movie could have done more in the way of character development, especially regarding the protagonist. While viewing the film, I thought that the Andrew Garfield character's struggle with his conscience and deeply-felt religious convictions did not feel as organic, naturalistic, and credible as the Garfield character's somewhat similar struggle in Hacksaw Ridge. Martin Scorsese is certainly a subtler filmmaker than Mel Gibson, but Silence is so concerned with its ideas and themes that perhaps character development and narrative flow lag behind. That said, those ideas and themes are quite fascinating—and chilling.
And most modern cinema, for all its action and fireworks and slow motion people flying away from explosions and such...is oh-so-very boring to me....There is nothing more boring to me than a sustained 20 minute action scene....
You don't have to be religious to appreciate this piece of art or the ideas it conveys. There are no particular supernatural elements to the film, and it doesn't treat the supposed existence of God as matter-of-fact. But I think you'd struggle with it if you despise and disrespect the religious, because it would then be hard to empathise or even sympathise with and understand the protagonists' circumstances. It's less about religion and more about the tests of faith. Would you let others suffer for you? Would you symbolically reject your faith to prevent that suffering? The priests genuinely believed they were doing good by spreading what they perceived to be the truth. One can argue about the wisdom or "misguidedness" of such a pursuit, but I don't see how anyone can describe it as 'evil' or simply part of a consciously imperialist desire to make Japan exactly like Europe.
This movie is a "meditation". I think labeling it as a "religious" or "Christian" film, not that there's anything wrong with that, but it's why a lot of people will pass on the film, why the film doesn't have a wider release, and thus is why society is so ignorant: because they pass on the chance for meditation. You can meditate without involving religion. I saw this film very differently. This film tries to recreate the conflict between religion and culture. There's nothing inherently wrong with that premise, but by positioning a religious padre as its moral center and its protagonist, it portrays the indigenous cultural leaders as the murderous villains. The protagonist's faith is tested repeatedly and his resistance to apostatizing is the main conflict in the film. That's where I believe the split in the audience is. If you see his faith as something important, then the suffering is meaningful. If you don't find his mission and faith to be meaningful, his words are sanctimonious, judgmental and irritating.
If people choose not to see Silence because of its strong religious themes, you can't fault people for having different beliefs. If you didn't want to watch a Muslim, Buddhist or pagan film because it doesn't align with your ideology, there's nothing wrong with that. As long as you understand the differences it's okay to pass on a movie. That doesn't make one ignorant. This movie doesn't necessarily have to be a religious movie. It could be about control or freedom. The government wants you to act they how they want you to act. They want you to conform to their way of thinking and not have the freedom to think as you wish. The religious part of the movie could be substituted for anything. Democracy, for example. Or the religious part could be seen as a deviation away from the culture of the nation. Reminds me of 1984.
I feel the priests were right in stepping on the symbolic "their way of thinking' plaque in order to save lives. And the guy that constantly wanted to be forgiven, yet renounced his faith at every turn could be the devil. Or he could be confession itself.
And the silence. Silence from anything you think you believe in. Doubt. Ambivalence.
Sadly, Hollywood is mostly only interested in appealing to fanboys which is why we get so many comic book movies and why a director of Martin Scorsese's stature had to wait 30 years to make something else. I understand the need to go to movies to escape the craziness of the modern world, but when there is so little room for thoughtful movies that require thought for longer than 10 minutes after the closing credits have begun things have gone too far in one direction. I thought it was a very somber and contemplative film, as well as a rewarding one that never truly demonised the Japanese inquisitors, nor entirely venerated the actions of the European priests, asking interesting questions about the spread of certain faiths, how it can thrive in some societies but struggles against the cultural traditions and practicalities of others, and the righteousness, or otherwise, of the people seeking to spread their faith, and what they believe is the 'truth', to other communities. I also felt it ended on a hopeful albeit bittersweet note on the abiding faith and individual's strength of belief, even in a society that has relentlessly sought to knock it out of them.
NB: Scorsese he's a hardcore catholic, like myself. In fact, I don't believe we can separate good art from religion, otherwise, we couldn't enjoy a large percentage of art. It is religion but it also offers really great discussion on faith and sees perspectives of the various factions offered in this film. it's also very beautiful to watch. So, if you can leave your prejudices at home, you may have a rollicking good time. if you just can't stand religion. then watch a good documentary that doesn't have any religious influence.