A Martin Scorsese masterstroke: The art of silence
For someone like Martin Scorsese, who is often regarded as one of the most important and significant filmmakers in all of cinema history, he has spent an entire lifetime making movies that are sure to stand the test of time. Now aged 77 and still going strong, Scorsese continues to work passionately on new projects—his latest feature being the sociopolitical-horror film The Irishman which was released last year.
A staunch cinema-lover apart from being one of the trailblazers of the New-Hollywood movement, Scorsese recounts several films and filmmakers being his inspiration growing up. John Cassavetes—the pioneer of American independent cinema—whose films are characterised by chatty and improvisational dialogues, heavily influenced Scorsese’s scripts and production and advised him to “make films about what you know”. Owing to his Italian roots, he also named ‘Italian Neorealism’ and, subsequently, the works of Roberto Rossellini and Vittorio De Sica amongst various other as substantial in his growth as a filmmaker.
Scorsese, who eventually won the Academy Award for Best Director for his 2006 film The Departed after several previous nominations, has since gone on to make numerous other features in a vast oeuvre—with stylistic contrasts that range from the controversial The Last Temptation of Christ to the 19th century Daniel Day-Lewis starring romantic-drama The Age of Innocence.
Thematic motifs like religious guilt, political corruption, and inevitably the Italian-American identity are present in most of his films; Scorsese is also renowned for several of his recurring filmmaking techniques. These include the use of slow motion, freeze frames, rapid editing and dynamic camera movements. However, one of the less-discussed of his cinematic masterstrokes, which can be seen in almost all of his films with varying degrees of implementation is that of intentional silence.
This fascination of his with the lack of sound and music – silence – reached its culmination with the production of his 2016 drama-epic Silence, which starred the likes of Andrew Garfield, Liam Neeson and Adam Driver. When questioned about the film, Scorsese had some very interesting things to say: “As you get older, ideas go and come. Questions, answers, loss of the answer again and more questions, and this is what really interests me. Yes, the cinema and the people in my life and my family are most important, but ultimately as you get older, there’s got to be more… Silence is just something that I’m drawn to in that way. It’s been an obsession, it has to be done… it’s a strong, wonderful true story, a thriller in a way, but it deals with those questions.”
This perhaps stands equally true for him, as well as his obsession with the all-important “art of silence.”