(aka 'Chinmoku')

Directed by Masahiro Shinoda
Japan 19
71

 

  Adapted from the renowned novel by Shusaku Endo, Masahiro Shinoda’s 1971 film Silence (Chinmoku, co-written with Endo) explores the violent cultural conflict amid the arrival of Jesuit missionaries in seventeenth-century Japan. Shinoda’s excellent direction — coupled with a pensive score by the legendary Toru Takemitsu — gives cinematic expression to inner spiritual paradox, and imbues with religious mystery a landscape that seems already sentient with wind, rain, and light.

Two Portuguese priests disembark upon an anonymous Japanese shore. Under cover of nightfall, they seek to infiltrate those Christian sects driven underground by a ruthless magistracy, and re-establish the foothold of the Church on the isolated island-nation. Soon, however, the priests find themselves drawn into the mire of persecution, and gradually learn the truth behind the ominous disappearance of another Catholic missionary decades earlier…

By way of a heavily made-up and polyglot Tetsuro Tanba (Assassination, Kwaidan, Samurai Spy), Silence builds toward a revelation that approaches the impact of Colonel Kurtz’s entrance in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness (or Marlon Brando’s take on Kurtz in Coppola’s Apocalypse Now). Rendered in a tender colour palette courtesy of master cinematographer Kazuo Miyagawa (Rashomon, Yojimbo, Ugetsu monogatari), Silence unearths lies and beauty at the intersection of religion and Japanese society.

Gary W. Tooze

Theatrical Release: January 1971 - Tokyo

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DVD Review: Eureka - Masters of Cinema - Region 2 - NTSC

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Distribution Eureka - Masters of Cinema Spine # 44 - Region 2 - NTSC
Runtime 2:10:12 
Video 1.33:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 6.31 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate:

Audio English + Japanese (Dolby Digital 2.0) 
Subtitles English (optional), Japanese (non-removable), None
Features

Release Information:
Studio: Eureka - Masters of Cinema

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1

Edition Details:

• Full-colour PDF facsimiles of two historical texts long out-of-print:
- A History of the Missions in Japan and Paraguay by Cecilia Mary Caddell (314 pages, c. 1856)
- Japan’s Martyr Church by Sister Mary Bernard (130 pages, c. 1926)
• A 20-page booklet containing a new essay by writer Doug Cummings etc.

DVD Release Date: September 24th, 2007

Transparent Keep Case
Chapters: 12

 

 

Comments:

A bit of a 'sticky wicket' as they say, with a digital misgiving not usually present in Masters of Cinema's stellar work.  Firstly though, the image; looks to be directly from Toho - Region 2 (with an NTSC standard - not PAL- incorrectly stated on DVDTimes). I was satisfied with the progressive, dual-layered image - somewhat dark at times with unpronounced contrast, but this intensifies occasional bright colors. Anyway it was unremarkable but at a better-than-average standard for the overall appearance with pretty strong detail. What I was a bit take back by is that the Japanese subtitles - when infrequent English language is spoken in the film - are totally non-removable (see sample below). I can only surmise that MoC was provided with no option from Toho. It is certainly not a fatal flaw as you get used to it quite quickly but in a couple of instances Japanese characters speaking English was quite hard to decipher and I couldn't put English subs on (over the Japanese) to make out what was said! An unusual circumstance indeed. Other than that - the English subtitles are removable (only available with Japanese dialogue) and excellently rendered. The audio was rather flat but clear and consistent enough to appreciate the film.     

Digital extras are in the form of two full-color PDF facsimiles of two historical texts long out-of-print: A History of the Missions in Japan and Paraguay by Cecilia Mary Caddell (314 pages, c. 1856) and Japan’s Martyr Church by Sister Mary Bernard (130 pages, c. 1926). I'll be honest I didn't read these all through but preferred Doug Cummings take in the liner notes booklet essay included. Quite professionally done and a nice keepsake to return to for enlightenment.

The film may be a tough nut for many to crack. Ponderous at times but for those keen on the subject matter it can be quite impacting and unforgettable. It is a vast and deep dissertation on religion, faith and sacrifice. With thanks to MoC who continue to prove that there is an immense catalogue of interesting and provocative films still unattainable except through the technology of digital disc.     

Gary W. Tooze

 

 



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Distribution Eureka - Masters of Cinema - Region 2 - NTSC




 

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Gary Tooze

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