A crisis of – and a search for – faith drives the story in Silence, the new movie from director Martin Scorsese. The movie follows two 17th century Jesuit priests, Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) and Garppe (Adam Driver) who are told one day that their mentor Ferreira (Liam Neeson) has committed apostasy – that he denied God while on his mission on feudal Japan. The two can’t believe someone who taught them the faith would do such a thing and so resolve to travel there themselves to find him.
That’s a problem though since Ferreira has not only gone missing but Christianity, at the time, was illegal in Japan. So when Rodrigues and Garppe get there they attempt to preach to the people around them but are opposed at almost every turn. They persevere but wind up facing a crisis of faith themselves after so many trials. The story is based on a 1966 novel by Shusaku Endo.
The first and only poster sets the tone more than anything else. A cloudy white background is broken up by the slightly fuzzy image of Neeson, who appears to be some sort of monk or priest. The title treatment appears in his torso but his translucent lower half shows Garfield and Driver making their way out of or along a coastline, with their dress showing this clearly takes place far in the past.
We open in the trailer with Rodrigues talking about his mission to spread God’s Word to all creatures. He and Garrpe are given a mission, to go and find out what happened to Ferreira, who has gone rouge and denounced God while on a mission in Japan. So the two priests undertake the journey themselves, but find that their welcome there is less than friendly as they face persecution and temptation from all sides. There are all kinds of scenes here of them trying to spread the Gospel but encountering groups and individuals who are not receptive to their message or their presence, all of which culminates with Rodrigues questioning his own faith.
I love how Scorsese gets outside his comfort zone and that’s exactly what this looks like. The trailer is frantic and fast-paced, showing a thrilling period drama about a crisis of faith. There’s not much Neeson here as the focus is on Garfield and to a lesser extent Driver, but it’s clear there will be plenty of tension and drama in the story.
Online and Social
A version of the key art graces the home page of the movie’s official website. There’s a big prompt to watch the trailer again in the middle of the page, just above a rotating carousel of quotes from critics praising the movie. At the top there’s a button to buy tickets alongside links to the movie’s Facebook page as well as the Twitter and Instagram profiles for Paramount.
Moving over to the content menu along the top of the page, the first section there is “Synopsis,” where you can read a decent write-up of the movie’s story. The “Cast & Filmmakers” section is the best such section I’ve seen in a while, with actual information about the actors and filmmakers so you can read more about their histories.
There’s just the one trailer in the “Videos” section. “Photos” has a baker’s dozen stills from the movie. Finally, “Press & Accolades” has some pull quotes from early reviews praising the movie as a way to extend the powerful word of mouth that’s already accumulated.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
There’s been no TV advertising that I’ve been able to find. A few online ads ran that used the key art and drove traffic to the official site.
Media and Publicity
The first look at the movie came via an official still released to Entertainment Weekly showing Wilson and Johnson engaged in some sort of hijinks. Another still followed several months later as part of a new wave of publicity that teased the movie was imminent.
A good amount of buzz was garnered when a brief preview was shown at a Paramount corporate press event, giving journalists a first look at footage.
The real publicity cycle for the movie didn’t really kick off, though, until this massive New York Times feature was run. That included the background of Scorsese’s involvement with the story and his desire over almost 30 years to make the movie, the director’s personal involvement with the subject matter and his history with the Catholic Church and lots more. This was the big public coming out moment for a movie that had, until that point, largely flown under the radar of many outside the group that was in on the latest buzz and updates.
Appropriately, it was announced the first public screening of the movie would happen at the Vatican for an audience of Jesuit priests and other figures.
A big feature interview with Scorsese came after the rest of the campaign had begun that talked on the director’s history with the project, his passion for the story and its themes as well as personal details about his life and career.
The main theme of the campaign is that his is Scorsese’s passion project, one that’s taken him decades to get off the ground. That was particularly prominent in the press push for the movie but also gets mentioned in the official synopsis on the website. That’s meant the focus can be squarely on the legendary director and provides an easy hook for the press to talk about not just this movie but also his entire career, which is much more interesting for the movie geeks currently making up much of the media.
Outside of that the movie seems like a throwback to the kind of epics that were made back in the early 90s. It reminds me of something like The Last Emperor and other movies in the grand scope yet intimate scale of the story. It’s a small campaign but that’s a result of the marketing only really kicking off about two months ago, meaning it’s all been compressed into a tight timeframe. Still, what’s sold looks like a moving drama from one of cinema’s most iconic filmmakers.