Shinya Tsukamoto and Yoshi Oida did not receive Oscar nominations for portraying Mokichi and Ichizo respectively in Silence.
What is important about both of their performances is that even within the intensity of that attachment the two directly show the appreciation that each man has for the priests, which directly connects to their faith. The desperation is real but within it Oida and Tsukamoto reveal what it is that Mokichi and Ichizo are granted from it. When in direct interaction, of their faith, they portray the solace they receive from it. Their joy is overwhelming at times and in that they directly suggest not only what they find in their beliefs but also what it grants them. All in this though we are given an insight into the very peculiar status of the men's beliefs considering that they are technically praying in secret. This is found in their performances that convey this terrible attempt to keep hidden something they hold dear. That intense fear they both bring when they believe they may loses the priests, it is not that either of them are holding onto the men, but rather the idea of the men being such powerful tools of their belief.
Their test of faith comes though when the Japanese inquisition visits their village, and again both actors excel in these scenes. There is real power in the terror that grace their face as they attempt to stand in front of the inquisition. It is decided that both Mokichi and Ichizo must be hostages, but they must find two more. Oida has a terrific scene where he reveals the pure unadulterated faith in Ichizo as he pleads with another to join them in their sacrifice. Here in these scene there such a poignancy in depicting both men attempting to deal with their own struggle to abandon their faith in order to save themselves. Both are exceptional in the moment where Rodrigues grants them the permission to trample the image of Christ they will be presented with. Rodrigues's own statement is given understanding through the sheer horror that Tsukamoto portrays as he asks what to do, and Oida is equally effective as he conveys Ichizo's surprise at the advice. The two fail though to apostatize to the inquisitions requirement, they do trample the image Christ but without certainty. Again both of the performances are essential in these moments as silently they given the terrible struggle in both men, and allude to their belief. The men are sentenced to death and slowly executed by the tide while placed upon wooden crosses. This is Tsukamoto's scene and he is heart wrenching throughout the scene. As he reveals the man's slow emotional death in painful detail. What makes it so moving though is that Tsukamoto depicts still that solace in the man's eyes as he says a pray for his friend when Ichizo dies, and then later when he sings a hymn as he tries to hold onto life or perhaps ease his death. Both actors give very strong performances as they so effectively, and importantly grant a face to the Japanese Christians and their struggle. Their deaths are not meaningless, as they continue to haunt long after their departure.
A shame about a transformative performance like this is it is not one that can be readily appreciated, though Ogata was the only supporting actor from the ensemble recognized anywhere to begin with, but if one actually goes to see the man in an interview one can see that he truly went out on a limb with his performance here. It absolutely works though and makes him the all the more effective as a villain. Ogata does not really speak for over an hour into the film, even though we see him before that point, after Rodrigues has been captured with a group of Japanese Christians. He speaks and we get a glimpse of Inoue's most unusual method of defeating his enemies. In that Ogata delivers his initial words against the Christians as though he is merely pleasantly giving them a bit of advice. This even continues as he opens up to Rodrigues, but this changes when Rodrigues makes it clear that he will not be an easily defeated priest. Ogata's switch is perfect, as well as rather menacing, revealing a more exact hatred, when he makes his frustrations known directly to him. I especially admire his venomous delivery of "The price of you glory is their suffering" suggesting a less gentle man when he sees that this priest will take some time.
Now the reason I discussed Ogata and Asano together, besides that their characters are in supportive of each other in the same task, is that they are also kind of hilarious. Despite being the most identifiable villains for the film, they are also the source of the most light hearted moments in the film. What is astonishing is that it somehow feels not only natural it only elevates the film's strengths all the more. A great deal of the credit for this needs to go to both actors. Asano's comedic moments come from that general sense of superiority he grants the Interpreter. Asano though is suddenly funny when he is funny, particularly his timing when Rodrigues asks if their plan is to let their body betray him and he instantly counters "Not at all" with such abrasive indifference. Ogata's very being is amusing particularly with the little business he goes in whether it is shooing a fly in his initial interrogation or his manner of calling or punishing those he needs when he's trying to straighten up. Both make the humor genuine, and fitting to their characters. In these instances Asano and Ogata reflect the attitudes of the men whose job it has become to inflict such punishments, and they're so comfortable in it that they can be rather blasé about it all.
Ogata and Asano do not compromise their characters intentions though with those lighter moments. They are a natural part of their overarching characterizations of these inquisitors. When they become more direct in their technique both are brutally effective. Again one of the most notable sequences of the film is when Rodrigues is forced to watch Father Garupe drown in a failed attempt to save some of the Japanese Christians. Asano is bone chilling in the scene as he offers such exact remarks towards Rodrigues throughout it. There is no sympathy just the intention to break the man with his cruel words that are made all the crueler through Asano's direct almost unemotional delivery. Ogata excels in crafting this most unusual man's way of destroying those who oppose him, and he manages to make something so menacing out of only usually implying what he's capable of. We actually don't really ever hear him order someone to be directly executed or tortured. Ogata gives us that sly smile and even a warmth as he speaks to Rodrigues about a story regarding concubines, even offering this shyness as he ponders if he should regale such a story to a celibate priest. When the story is revealed to be a metaphor for the other countries interfering in Japan, there is this darker shade in his eyes, which only worsens when Rodrigues's resolve is not lost. Ogata in those moments suggests the man responsible for the torture and murders of so many. Ogata though in the end presents a man who has come to attempt to convert rather than kill, though that may involve the killing of others. I feel this is best represented in Ogata's final scene where he actually comforts the defeated Rodrigues, and delivers his message as "hey you tried your best but it was all against you". Ogata gives a great performance as he not only offers such a unique character, that you feel has quite the life outside of the frame we view him in. Asano and Ogata realize the effectiveness of the inquisition. They present men who have become so very comfortable and efficient in their task, making it almost second nature to them, even though it involves so many horrible deeds.
Liam Neeson did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Father Cristovao Ferreira in Silence.
Neeson does live up to his character's reputation but not in the way you may think. Neeson's work here is fascinating as seems aware of his own screen persona. Neeson is of course no way a stranger to playing mentors, on the contrary it is one of his specialties. Neeson though in those roles though is always known for the confidence and command he brings to them. That is not what Neeson brings here and he makes a tremendous impact from his first scene where Ferreira sits across from Rodrigues to speak. Neeson is notable as he gives us this broken man. Neeson realizes what was done to Ferreier in every aspect of his performance. Neeson shares almost no eye contact with Garfield throughout the scene, almost like beat dog, showing this shame as Ferreira knows how he must look to his old student. Neeson inflicts this hesitation in his early greetings, this stops in speech reflecting this overwhelming sadness of the man. When he asks "do I seem so different" to Rodrigues, there is such distress in his voice, as Neeson shows a man who honestly knows the answer already. When he speaks of being happy to finally be of use, Neeson reveals a man writhing in pain just below his skin, torn apart by just what he has become.
Neeson shows that Ferreira only can come out of this depression when he attempts to speak Rodrigues into following his example. Neeson portrays this in no way as Ferreira having become some true believer for the Japanese's cause. There is something as painful as his depressed state as he attempt to argue for Rodrigues to denounce his faith himself. There is a passion that Neeson grants the words but a cynical passion. Neeson plays this as a man grasping onto his olds doubts to be able to speak these words. Neeson perhaps gives us the most direct Ferreira as he attempts to convince Rodrigues that the Japanese never understood Christianity to begin with. Neeson again does not deliver this as some man whose made a revelation, it is rather a man writhing in his own torments. There is no hope left in Neeson's voice or eyes in his miserable teachings towards his old student. Neeson's work is incredibly striking and oddly enough soulful as he depicts a man who has had his own faith ripped from him. As powerful as Neeson's performance is up until he helps to "break" Rodrigues, one of the most affecting moments though is in his final quiet scene as he and Rodrigues go about their duties as pawns of the anti-christian Japanese. Ferreira states that only "Our Lord" can judge their minds, and in that brief moment Neeson alludes to the man and teacher Ferreira once was, and that his faith was perhaps still within him. This is an outstanding performance by Liam Neeson as it is such compelling subversion of his usual presence, and leaves such considerable imprint on the film despite his very brief screentime.
Kichijiro does in the end take the priests over to Japan where we eventually learn the cause of the man's state. The revelation is that Kichijiro is not only indeed a Christian but also his whole family was murdered by the Japanese inquisition. Kichijiro only survived himself by apostatizing yet he still saw his family die. We are given a brief insight into the former man as we flashback to see his family being massacred as he watched. Kubozuka's presence is different in that he stands not as the drunken fool, but a normal man. As the family is massacred though Kubozuka's reaction is truly haunting as it echoes the pain the man is suffering, a pain that could bring him to the state the Fathers originally found him in. The scene gives sense to Kubozuka's performance which not of a drunken fool, but rather a man driven to madness due his grief. In the scene where Kichijiro tells Rodrigues his story Kubozuka is absolutely heartbreaking by revealing the real man beneath the wretch. He portrays so well the hint of hope in the man with such poignancy as he asks if there is a chance that God may forgive him.
When the inquisition arrives though Kubozuka shows that although we may have a greater understanding of the man, he's in no way recovered. Kubozuka instead portrays this rather problematic attachment that Kichijiro gains towards Rodrigues. Kubozuka depicts it as that same madness in the man, but now he has a method of trying to find some respite which is through looking towards Rodrigues for guidance and absolution. When the villagers asks for Kichijiro's help, as well as accuse him of wrongdoing, Kubozuka's reaction grants an insight into the man. He reacts in utter fear but his protests are all aimed right towards Rodrigues in attempt for him to escape from his personal demons somehow. Kichijiro is one of the few Japanese who consistently avoids being killed by his willingness to apostatize again and again. Kichijiro for the rest of the film ends up being a rather strange ghost of sorts, though very much alive, who follows around Rodrigues. Again Kubozuka's work offers an understanding to this behavior by portraying that attachment that is so strong to the priest. Kubozuka's terrific because he really is absolutely the wretch Kichijiro seems to be, only becoming more wretched when he apparently betrays Rodrigues to the authorities. There is even a slightly comic element in this as Kichijiro continues to appear no matter where Rodrigues goes in order to deliver his confession. Kubozuka's performance touches upon a humorous undercurrent yet that is only an aspect in his realization of the terrible pathetic state of the man. What's so remarkable about his work is his ability to infuse Kichijiro with that history, and that at all points he carries that very real pain that brought him to this point with a very real desperation in his attempts to find some solace. Kubozuka is the last of the prominent supporting actors to appear in the film as he acts as a servant to the now apostatized Rodrigues. Years have past and Kubozuka gives a slightly more put together Kichijiro, having been living a different life of sorts. Kichijiro still asks to have his confession heard and it is comic in a way yet also tragic because Kubozuka makes the intention of his wish to have his sins forgiven so honest. He's incredibly moving and Kubozuka also manages to give understanding to Kichijiro as a man, despite his pathetic state. He's never a caricature as Kubozuka delivers his own embodiment of man's journey to finding his own path in regards to his faith, that mirrors Rodrigues's own though Kichijiro's perhaps is a less noble one.