The following story will dive into mild spoilers for Martin Scorsese's latest, Silence, so please stop reading now if you have not yet seen the film.
Audiences who know going into Silence, director Martin Scorsese's contemplative and controversial analysis of his own faith and convictions, that the film stars Gangs of New York collaborator Liam Neeson may be wondering where the Irishman is for the duration of the film. By design, Neeson is shown at the beginning of the film, and then kept off screen, as Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) and Garupe (Adam Driver) comb Japan's harsh terrains looking for the missing priest -- their own personal mentor in the faith. The tension of what might have happened to Neeson's character, Father Ferreira, builds until we finally get a confrontation between Rodrigues and the man for which he has been searching... and Neeson tells me Garfield had a strange approach to actually filming their scene together. The actor informed me:
Andrew did not want to see me until the camera turned. I cheated a bit, because I gave him a hug when I came on set, and he went, 'Oh, no no. Don't do that!' [Laughs] And it was like, 'Well, get over it. Act it!' [Laughs] But it was a lovely scene to do. I think it was very beautifully written, and we kind of knew what we had to do [with it].
Silence deliberately, and expertly, builds to this moment of release, when Andrew Garfield's staunch, Catholic priest is finally able to confront his mentor and find out if he has been kidnapped and held against his will, or if he has rejected the Catholic Church and chosen to live according to the customs of the Japanese. Rodrigues has agreed to infiltrate hostile Japanese territories because he believes there is no possible way that Ferreira could turn his back on The Lord. And we're left questioning the priest's motives, wondering if Rodrigues is on a fool's errand or a true mission of redemption.
It's amusing that Andrew Garfield, in an attempt to go Method, tried to avoid contact with his co-star before filming this pivotal scene, possibly the most important in the narrative of Silence. And that Liam Neeson was having none of it, embracing his young (and a little too serious) co-star and telling him to just act the words on the script.
Later, during our exclusive interview in New York City on behalf of Silence, Liam Neeson broke down why he believed this scene was so important to the success of the film, stating:
I think my character's arguments to Andrew's character [in that scene] are very fair. I believed them. And it comes at a point in the film where I think we, as the audience, need to sort of see another argument to this young man's absolute... staunchly holding on to his faith.
It's in this moment that the audience will decide which protagonist they side with, largely determining how they feel about Silence, and Martin Scorsese's own belief system. Fortunately, the more you marinate on the material, the greater the chance that your belief will sway. Such is the power of Scorsese's narrative here. Silence probably need to be seen a few times before it all properly sinks in. In the meantime, here's a clip of our longer conversation with Liam Neeson on behalf of Silence:
Silence is in theaters as we speak.