Sunday, August 27, 2017

Movie Review - Silence

Yes...another movie review. Weekend goes by with at least one or two movies. I would normally not watch Silence, it seems a little too serious to me, but I am glad I watched it. It was a slow but engaging movie. With a great actor, Liam Neeson, although in a small but key role, but the major kudos go to Andrew Garfield.

The movie is set in 17th century Japan when Jesuits traveled with trading ships to proselytize the Japanese. The traders were Dutch, Portuguese and Spanish...maybe more. But this story is about the Portuguese Jesuit priests. Liam Neeson (Father Farreira) had gone to Japan and not returned, gone silent. Two young priests, Garfield (Rodriguez) and Driver (Garupe) take it upon themselves to go and look for him. They both land on an island where they luckily run into some converts who hide and protect them. In those times the Japanese Inoue (ruler?) was ruthless in his prevention of these conversions. The Christians practiced their faith, baptism, confessions etc, in hiding.

The locals (farmers/peasants) were very happy to have the two young priests. The first third of the movie is where the young priests are getting used to being hidden and performing their duties. Rodriguez still wants to go and find Farreira, but their circumstances do not allow it. Then the story takes a turn by the arrival a peasant (K) who offers to take them to another island. They go with him. Apparently priests have a bounty on their head! K takes them along with three other devout who offer themselves up so the two priest can escape and hide on the island.

There is an elaborate scene on how these devout are sacrificed. They are asked to step on a carving of Jesus to renounce their faith. They refuse. So they are tied to a cross and left in the ocean to die. It is a powerful scene. And after they die, they are cremated.  Rodriguez and Garupe watch all this in horror. They decide to separate so they are not caught together.

Now the real story starts. Rodriguez meets up with some other devout, but is eventually caught by the Inoue and taken as a prisoner with all the other devout.

I could write the whole story but the takeaway is that Rodriguez's faith is tested over and over again. He sometimes sees himself as Jesus, the saviour of all the peasants. Then sometimes he does not think God is listening to him. He keeps feeling if there is a God he will prevent all these killings that Inoue is doing to wipe out Christians. At one time he is taken to a place and shown Garupe dying while trying to save some of the converts. Something that Rodriguez has not been able to do.  This whole time all that the Inoue is asking him to do is step on a carving of Jesus, that's it. And he will stop killing the Christians. But Rodriguez is unable to do this. The Inoue keeps killing the converts. Rodriguez feels guilty but cannot bring himself to step on Jesus's carving.

And then the final straw comes when he is taken to meet a monk, Father Farreira! By this time Farreira has renounced Christianity and has become a Buddhist monk. He advises Rodriguez to do the same. But Rodriguez is still defiant. But in the end he gives up - how? He sees what caused Father Farreira to change. Five people tied up and hung upside down in a pit. On their neck is a small slit that lets blood drip slowly out of their body. It delays death ... just torturous!!  Farreira explains to Rodriguez that love of God is to love the people and not cause them to die like this. At all times Rodriguez is asking the Inoue to punish him - Rodriguez, but the Inoue instead tortures his converts. A great dialogue is when Inoue says to Rodriguez, "Your glory comes at their sacrifice".

It's really powerful movie. It is based on a book which is based on facts. It really touched me for two reasons: first - I don't believe in conversion. I don't believe any person has the right to convert anyone's religion. It is a personal choice. And second - I believe that love is the answer to all world's problems. The most basic message should be to show love, respect and kindness to everyone. If one can do that then I think one does not need religion in their life.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Movie Review - Aftermath

I am not a big fan of Arnold Schwarzenegger but Aftermath seemed like a different kind of movie. And it was. It started off really well, tragic, but well.  A plane accident kills Arnold's wife and daughter (who was pregnant). The accident was just that - an accident. The cause was a result of communication error in the flight traffic control room. It resulted in more than 270 people dying in the plane crash.

The movie is about Arnold (Roman) and Scoot McNairy (Jake), two men on two different sides of this story but dealing with immense tragedies: Roman dealing with the loss of the only two people he loved and Jake dealing with the guilt of accidentally killing 270 people. Jake is a happily married man with a young son, but everything in his life becomes meaningless after this incident. He goes into depression. Roman starts spending too much time in the cemetery.

The story takes interesting turns on how these two men are trying to cope with their grief. Eventually after one year both are sort of getting settled in new roles. Jake changes his life, his name and gets a new job in a new city. Roman quits his job and does odd jobs. Roman sues the airlines asking them only for an apology, which he never gets from them or anyone.

Their paths never collide until Roman asks a reporter, who had previously contacted Roman for a story, to find out about the identity of the air traffic controller. Until now the story was going fine for me, but after this incident the story took a bad turn.  They could have made the movie in such a different way. If you plan to see the movie, don't read anymore.

The reporter told Roman the identity of Jake and his home address.  Roman goes there to ask Jake for an apology.  At the same time, Jake is rebuilding his life and finally his wife and son come to see him in his new place. And then Roman barges in all this wanting an apology. Jake tells him to go but Roman doesn't and in his distress he kills Jake with a knife. Jake's wife and son are inside and it is just a shocking event. Roman goes to jail, comes out after ten years and goes straight to the cemetery. He is followed by a young man. Yes, you guessed right, Jake's son, now all grown up. Roman says nothing has changed in the cemetery but Jake's son says everything has changed since his father died. Then it clicks in Roman's mind who this young man is. The son has a gun and wants to kill Roman, but his conscious does not allow it. Roman apologizes to him and when the son asks him to go, he goes away.

My problem with the whole movie is how alone everyone is in this movie. Roman is alone in his grief. No one from his work comes to see him. He has no friends. Jake is lucky to have a wife, but she fails to empathize with him and support him. She does not divorce him and in the end is still waiting to be with Jake, but she was not as compassionate or supportive when he needed it most. Towards the end when Roman finds Jake's location and he goes, he is so focused on his own grief that he does not even want to listen to Jake. There was no need to kill Jake. Jake did not deliberately kill anyone or his wife and daughter. But it seems that no one is willing to listen or talk to each other.

Then there is the reporter - why did she give Jake's address to Roman without being present there herself to facilitate the meeting? So unethical. Lastly, the airlines people, who show no sympathy for the family of the passengers. They just offer money as if that compensates for the loss.

All in all, I don't know why the writer, Javier Gullon, wrote this movie which shows the worst of all human behaviour. The movie could have been made into such a positive one with love, sympathy and empathy. Why make such a depressing movie into an even more depressing movie?