Martin Scorsese’s Silence doesn’t merely tell a story of religious persecution in 17th-century Japan—it sears the experience into viewers’ minds, an effect achieved in large part through the film’s images. An agonizing scene where Japanese Christians are tortured while hanging on crosses is shot from a distance, creating a sense of remove that simultaneously foregrounds the scene’s visual similarity to historical images of Christ’s crucifixion (which the persecutors are intentionally mocking precisely through using crosses and arranging them in this way) and articulates the viewer’s position when this scene occurs at the start of the film: centuries removed from the events of the film but soon to be brought excruciatingly close to the characters’ suffering. Later in the movie, disturbing distance is replaced with harrowing intimacy via close-ups that register faces contorted in unspeakable pain.
These images, so perfect for Silence, didn’t come from nowhere. Rodrigo Prieto, the man behind the camera, deservingly received a Best Cinematography nod at the 89th Academy Awards in late February. His work in Scorsese’s film revealed a deep sensitivity to cinematic grammar, making the latest Prieto-related news come as little surprise: According to Variety, the veteran cinematographer will be trying his hand at directing with Bastard, a revenge thriller set in a small town threatened by an impending flood.
Silence is not the first time that Prieto has worked with Scorsese, nor will it be his last. The cinematographer lensed The Wolf of Wall Street in 2013 and is attached to shoot The Irishman, which is expected to hit Netflix in 2019. On top of these, Prieto has served as DP for Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Death Trilogy (Amores Perros, 21 Grams and Babel), 25th Hour, Brokeback Mountain and Argo. This ridiculously stacked resume automatically makes Prieto’s forthcoming project one to watch out for.