Movie Review: Silence

Sebastian Blum, Contributing Editor

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Martin Scorsese had been wanting to do this movie for almost 30 years, but never did so. He has done other religious films such as, The Last Temptation of Christ, which was met with critical acclaim, but scornfulness from the Christian community, and Kundun. Some say that this movie is pompous garbage, while others say that it’s a visual spectacle, but with no real point. I, however, believe this movie is a masterpiece.

The movie’s premise is that two Jesuit priests from Portugal, Sebastião Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) and Francisco Garupe (Adam Driver), travel to seek and find their lost mentor, Cristóvão Ferreira (Liam Neeson), who is located in Edo-era Japan, Nagasaki, and seems to have been captured and renounced the faith. The story is set in the time when it was common for Christians to hide from persecution following the suppression of Japanese Roman Catholics during the Shimabara Rebellion (1637–1638) against the Tokugawa shogunate. The movie is also based of the 1966 book of the same name, written by Shūsaku Endō.

The main theme of this film is faith. That is to be expected since the movie is about religion, but it is not so much about the idea of faith, but much more about the strength to keep one’s faith. Sebastião is very much the main character of the movie and the camera usually follows him. The whole point of this is to show his struggle with his faith. All around him are people persecuted for their faith, so to be safe, they must practice in silence. This sets up his struggle. People are tortured when they are found out to be Christians, and it ends up being more than suffering for God, and instead suffering for Sebastião. Sebastião refuses to give up his faith and step on the picture of Jesus. This quote from the movie, says it best, “The price for your glory is their suffering!”

Another theme of the movie is the silence of God. Sebastião questions whether or not God is actually listening to his prayers and suffering. “I feel so tempted. I feel so tempted to despair. I’m afraid. The weight of your silence is terrible. I pray, but I’m lost. Or am I just praying to nothing? Nothing. Because you are not there.” That constant burden that Sebastião puts onto himself is what makes the movie so interesting. To watch such a devout priest question something he holds so deerly and what makes up his existence. He believes that God is silent while he suffers. He also seems to forget if it is God’s will or his own that drives him. When he hears news that Father Ferreira has been captured, he is very eager to travel and rescue him. He claims that it is God’s will, when it is actually his will to help a mentor.

People fight over whether or not this film is a bash you over the head religious film, or if this movie is blasphemous, but it is neither. It is very much the middle ground. This film explores something that no other movie really has done before. It makes you feel awkward, and bizarre. It shows you that Japanese are the bad ones because they are killing Christians, but in truth, they are not the evil. The lines are blurred. The truth is that they just didn’t believe that their country needed to have Christianity. Does this mean the torture they put these people was justified? No. But you have no choice, but to understand it. The missionaries believed that they were correct and that to believe in Buddha was essentially wrong, and they are to follow God’s word. “Our Lord said to them, “Go ye into the whole world, and preach the gospel to every living creature.”” You end up so torn between the two sides. Upon first viewing, you cannot help but side with Father Rodrigues and Father Garupe, since all they want to do is to build the faith of hidden Christians and to save their mentor. But, upon now 3 viewings, you don’t know who the real “villain” is. The movie teaches you that man is no match to God. “I thought that martyrdom would be my salvation. Please, please, God, do not let it be my shame. The Lord is my refuge, and my deliverer. My God is my helper, and in Him will I put my trust. Of the Blood, all price exceeding, shed by our immortal King, destined for the world’s redemption.” Sebastião believes that if he is to suffer like Christ, he is fulfilled, but he is still man. He still thinks like a man. This is where he fails. People can and have died for Christ and never gave up, but for most, this may be the hardest task for a being. “The path of mercy. That means only that you abandon oneself. No one should interfere with another man’s spirit. To help others is the way of the Buddha and your way, too. The two religions are the same in this. It is not necessary to win anyone over to one side or another when there is so much to share.”

This movie is something unique. You want to keep talking about it, but you don’t really know how to go about it. It is a movie that is an experience and something you will never truly forget. For this, the movie, in its own right, is a masterpiece. It may make you cry or it may you roll your eyes, but it is a spiritual journey we all should embark on, religious or not.

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