Logo for Silence on DStv

Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver, Liam Neeson

In historical drama Silence, two 17th-century Portuguese missionaries, Father Sebastian Rodrigues and Father Francisco Garupe embark on a perilous journey to Japan to find their missing mentor, Father Ferreira. It is revealed Ferreira had to helplessly witness the torture of the Japanese converts he had been trying to bring to the Christian faith and forced to commit apostacy in order to remain alive himself.


While there, the two Rodriguez and Garupe minister to the Christian villagers who worship in secret. If caught by feudal lords or ruling samurai, they must renounce their faith or face a prolonged and agonizing death.


The film is based on the 1966 novel of the same name by Japanese author Shusaku Endo, and is set in Nagasaki, Japan. The story is based on historical facts, but while keeping the character name of the hero's mentor Father Ferreira - who was an actual historical figure - Endo changed the nationality of hero from Italian to Portuguese.


Scorsese and his team took over two decades to purchase the rights, secure funding, fight legal battles and produce Silence. After the filming of The Wolf of Wall Street in 2013, Scorsese finally refused to make another film before completing Silence.


Andrew Garfield, who stars as Father Rodrigues, was signed on with a year to go before the actual shoot. He turned down all other acting offers and immersed himself in the literature of the Jesuits, meeting regularly with Father James Martin, a priest who served as an adviser on the movie. He also grew out his hair and beard to prepare for the role. “He ([Martin] gave me spiritual direction as if I were a Jesuit in training,” says Garfield. “It became a very personal journey for me, a dual journey: It was me and Rodrigues, walking together, so that I could allow the events of the story to affect me in the way that a young, ambitious, intelligent, articulate, learned Jesuit would respond to being dropped into the front lines of the battle for Christianity”.


When Girls’ Adam Driver was cast as fellow missionary Garupe, the two actors attended a Jesuit retreat in Wales, where Garfield tested his fortitude by completing the arduous Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola – a step on the path to becoming an ordained priest. “It's almost like a 12-step program,” he explains. “In fact, it's the basis for a lot of 12-step programs, a long-form meditation and prayer spent imagining the life of Christ, story by story, gospel by gospel, and sitting with his teachings, sitting with him as he discovers who he is in the wilderness, and really meditating upon his life and even crucifixion”. When the time came to step in front of the camera, he says he was filled with information and the longing to spread the teachings of Christ.


Having to lose incredible amounts of weight to play two tortured priests was difficult for the duo. “The fasting does things to your mind, especially when you're on location in Taiwan, not knowing anybody. I would have about three hours' sleep a night and have dreams and visions of the greatest meals of my life with the closest people. It's very isolating and lonely and creates a spiritual hunger and a longing for comfort and connection,” said Garfield.