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Trivia / Goofs
Summary / Analysis
Times of India
Director Martin Scorsese’s latest film ‘Silence’ revolves around the story of two Jesuit priests who travel to Japan as they seek to locate their mentor who is rumored to have apostatized.
An adaptation of a Japanese novel of the same name, the central theme of ‘Silence’ is the exploration of faith — a personal experience unique to each individual. It’s of no surprise then, that it will prove to be a different outing for each viewer.
From the very first frame, the beauty of this film’s cinematography is evident. Rodrigo Prieto’s Academy Award nomination is well deserved; there are some astounding shots that will make you wonder how they were blocked and lit. Even scenes depicting excruciating torture are interspersed with gorgeous landscapes and camerawork that compel you to be fixated through its lengthy runtime. Directors of photography will study this film for years to come, along with theologians who will have a field day with each character’s perspective of belief. The extent to which Father Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) is tested – mentally, physically and spiritually, is downright harrowing. Rodrigues and Father Francisco (Adam Driver), are put through hellish conditions as they try to find Father Ferriera (Liam Neeson) – the man who mentored them.
Both Driver and Neeson have supporting roles that they do ample justice to, but it is Andrew Garfield who is tasked with all the heavy lifting. Although he struggles with the responsibility at times, Garfield is compelling enough as he ranges from dealing with his Messiah complex, to questioning the very nature of his faith as his prayers seem to fall on deaf ears. Besides these leading Hollywood actors, the rest of the cast is largely Japanese and each of them delivers a gripping performance – yet another testament to Scorsese’s calibre as a director. Another significant character is the soundtrack, or the lack thereof. Alluding to the title, silence has never been more deafening, especially during pivotal moments as your visual senses become more alert due to the lack of auditory input.
Martin Scorsese invested over 25 years into this 'passion project' but he inadvertently alienates his audience on numerous occasions, largely due to some undeniable flaws in its narrative structure, and lengthy pacing that can be agonizing to casual moviegoers. Bound to result in polarizing opinions, ‘Silence’ is one of Scorsese’s most intimate works that cannot be ignored.
‘Silence’ is an adaptation of Shusaku Endo's 1966 novel about a Jesuit missionary looking for his mentor in Japan.
The film was screened, before it’s release, to four hundred Jesuit Priests in Rome.
Filming of ‘Silence’ was completed in 73 days.
This is Martin Scorsese's third film based on religion after 'The Last Temptation of Christ' (1988) and 'Kundun' (1997).
This is Liam Neeson’s second film where he plays a Jesuit priest. The first one being ‘The Mission’ (1986). Interestingly that movie's story was also set in the seventeenth century.
Liam lost 20 pounds for his role in’Silence’.
The initial screenplay for the film was penned by director Martin Scorsese along with co-writer and long-time collaborator Jay Cocks in 1991.
Japanese men are being tortured by other Japanese. Their naked bodies are scalded with boiling water from hot springs, and then nailed to wooden posts. Father Ferreira (Liam Neeson) is witnessing this. He believes that most of these men are happy to become martyrs to show how strong their Christian beliefs are in 17th century feudal Japan.
Two Portuguese Jesuits, Father Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) and Father Garrpe (Adam Driver) are sitting with Father Valignano (Ciaran Hinds) who is reading the last known letter from their mentor, Father Ferreira. Father Valignano states that Ferreira apostatized to avoid being tortured and now lives in Japan in an arranged marriage. The two priests don't believe this and want to find the truth behind Father Ferreira's disappearance.
Christians are no longer allowed into Japan following the orders of Inquisitor Inoue, a government official. The priests are therefore taken on a Chinese boat to sneak into Japan. A Japanese man named Kichijiro (Yosuke Kubozuka) promises to lead them to the Christians. He also claims he is not a Christian himself. The three of them manage to reach the shores of Japan after a long journey. Kichijiro finds some Christians in the village who can safely hide the priests at the hideout in Tomogi, near Nagasaki. The priests are told to stay hidden inside and are strictly instructed not to open the doors for anyone unless they knock the door twice with a cane. If not, the priests should immediately hide in another secret room built under the floorboards.
Rodrigues and Garrpe prove essential to all the Christians in Japan who had lived without a priest for a long time. Although the two priests don't know the language they are glad to assist whenever the devotees confess and ask for guidance. Since Christians aren't allowed to have anything that represents Christianity, Rodrigues gives them a crucifix made of leaves. He also gives each of them a bead from his own rosary, which Kichijiro refuses to accept.
After a long time hiding in their hut, the two priests finally get restless and decide to go outside. Soon after, they notice few people watching from the bottom of the hill and rush back into the hut to hide under the floorboard. Within moments they hear someone at the door, calling for them. The visitors sound like they want guidance but Garrpe reminds Rodrigues they should be careful and not answer. Rodrigues decides to trust the men and emerges from the hiding spot. Turns out that these people are Christians who had heard of the priests in the valley and travelled there to request guidance. Their village Goto had not been persecuted by authorities, so they kept their Christian beliefs. Rodrigues agrees to become the priest for Goto and is happy to listen to confessions and conduct mass. He is content with his work as a priest for the persecuted Japanese. But upon returning to Tomogi, he learns that a samurai and his men have taken hostages until the villagers agree to betray their Christianity. A few days pass and the samurai demands three more hostages. Two of the men volunteer and convince Kichijiro to be the third since he is not from the village and won't be persecuted as harshly. Kichijiro reluctantly agrees. The men ask Rodrigues what to do if they're asked to desecrate an image of Christ. Rodrigues tells them to do it.
The three hostages are brought before a magistrate and told to trample on an image of Christ. As Rodrigues advised, they do so. But then they are ordered to spit on it and declare that the Blessed Virgin is a whore. Neither of the men agrees but Kichijiro is quick to do so; he is set free while the other men are sent to be tortured. The men are hung on crucifixes in the sea and are slowly drowned over a few days when the high tide comes in. Harrowed by this event, Rodrigues is disappointed by the silence of God which begins to separate him from Garrpe.
Rodrigues takes a boat to a village on an island where Ferreira was last seen, but finds abandoned; filled with filth and wild cats. Alone, he wanders around beginning to question whether it is moral to recant. He also sees evidence that someone else is on his trail when he finds traces of a fire recently put out. Eventually he learns that person is Kichijiro, who swears he was not the one who betrayed the villagers, even though 300 silver coins were being promised for his capture. Kichijiro promises to take Rodrigues to a safe place. Rodrigues is reluctant to trust him but does so anyway.
After Kichijiro gives Rodrigues salty fish to eat, he is thirsty so Kichijiro leaves to gather water. When he returns, he drops the jar but tells Rodrigues that there is a stream nearby where he can drink as much as he likes. Rodrigues goes to the stream and looks at his reflection in the water. Exhausted, underfed, dehydrated and ravaged by his thoughts, he sees his reflection turn into the face of Christ. He begins to laugh hysterically, then realizes he is surrounded by Japanese officials. Kichijiro asks him for forgiveness for his betrayal while he is given some silver coins by the persecutors.
Rodrigues is taken to a village where some Japanese Christians are being held prisoner in a small hut. They give him some food and he begins to mentor the group. A samurai appears and tells the peasants their lives will all be spared if Rodrigues apostatizes. Rodrigues is brought before a samurai and they discuss Christianity. The man says the Japanese do not want Christianity. Rodrigues asks about Father Ferreira and is told he did, in fact, apostatize and now lives in Nagasaki with a Japanese wife in a home that was provided for him upon converting to Buddhism. Rodrigues demands to speak to Inquisitor Inoue, the man who has spearheaded the cause to kill all Christians lest they apostatize. He learns that the man he's speaking to, is the Inquisitor. Rodrigues is taken to a new prison where he meets other inmates, all Christians. He continues preaching to them while hearing confessions. The other Christian prisoners are then brought out and told they must apostatize by trampling. They're assured it's only a formality and it will not tarnish their beliefs to do so. All the men refuse to trample and are sent back to their prison, although one man is asked to stay behind. Rodrigues was relieved to know that none of them were killed. Then a man approaches the remaining prisoner and quickly slices his head off. Seeing the blood, once again, Rodrigues began to doubt God because of his silence.
Rodrigues debates with the Inquisitor about the Japanese. Inoue admits that Christianity isn't necessarily evil but it has been used for evil and has ruined other nations. Rodrigues turns suspicious as he is treated well. Soon he is taken to Nagasaki where he sees Garrpe down on the beach, along with the Christians that Rodrigues has been imprisoned with. These Christians are rolled in straw mats and put onto a boat, where they are then pushed out to sea. Rodrigues is told they all apostatized so he wonders why they aren't set free. He is told the group are all peasant farmers and it doesn't matter what happens to them - what's important is converting a priest like Garrpe to abandon his faith. Rodrigues tries to shout out that Garrpe should apostatize to save the people's lives but he goes unheard. All the Christians are slowly drowned. Garrpe tries to save them but he's weak and frail, so he drowns as well.
Rodrigues now lives in depression. Eventually he's taken to a Buddhist temple to meet someone. This man is Ferreira himself, now known to the world as Sawano Chuan. Ferreira tells Rodrigues that he now writes on astronomy and medicine for the Japanese. He is also writing a book denouncing Christianity. Ferreira encourages Rodrigues to apostatize and tells him about the pit. We now see how the Japanese tortured Ferreira and converted him to Buddhism. A small incision was made behind his ear and then he was held upside down over a pit of faeces as the blood slowly dripped down his head. He was kept there for days. He also tells Rodrigues that the Japanese Christians always had a distorted version of the religion. They've never accepted the God of Christianity. Rodrigues points out that he has seen many Japanese die for their beliefs. Ferreira tells him the Japanese have never had a concept of God and never will. Rodrigues does not apostatize and he is bound to a horse and paraded around the town. The townspeople berate him. He is encouraged to give up, being told that a lot of the hecklers were once Christians, now Buddhists. Rodrigues is taken to the Inquisitor's house and asked to denounce his faith to avoid torture but Rodrigues still refuses. Rodrigues is taken into a cell where he spends the night worried about his impending torture. Kichijiro arrives and asks to be absolved for his sins. Reluctantly, Rodrigues does so. Ferreira arrives and tells Rodrigues that he was held captive there before being tortured in the pit. He tells Rodrigues that God was silent in his time of need.
Rodrigues hears a loud snoring and screams on his fateful night. But Ferreira reveals that the snores are actually the sounds of people being tortured and takes him nearby where he sees Japanese Christians hanging upside down in pits, as Ferreira had been. Rodrigues realizes he has been sitting by uselessly while this torture was going on, having mistaken the noise. Ferreira mentions the silence of God throughout Rodrigues struggles and tells him that even Christ himself would apostatize for the villagers being tortured.
The next morning, an image of Christ is brought out and Rodrigues is asked to trample on it. He struggles and then hears God's voice internally, telling him he was there throughout the silence, suffering alongside him. He hears Jesus telling him he must trample; that He was born into this world to share men's pain hence why he carried His cross. Rodrigues steps onto the image and then collapses.
Having apostatized, he is now given the same fate as Ferreira. He is renamed Paul and spends his time with Ferreira disposing of any Christian artefacts that are discovered upon raids of homes (including those hidden in other objects so they would go undetected). One of the objects is the crucifix Rodrigues had initially given to a villager upon arriving in Japan. Kichijiro is found to have a religious emblem inside a necklace he wears. He says he acquired it from someone else and didn't know what was in its locket. It is arranged for Rodrigues to take over the estate of a man after he dies and he is also given a wife and a child. Forty years pass and Rodrigues spends the rest of his life in Japan as a Buddhist. When he dies, he is cremated as is custom in Buddhism. But while he is being burned, we see him clutching a crucifix in his hand during his death.
Interesting movie - and quite an interesting history too. Shows the lengths the missionaries and the devotees went to those days to maintain the faith. And also shows how INTRUSIVE the christians were to force people to their religion - and the total disdain they had for other religions - which were much longer than Christianity.
Julie Ann Brown
A Good Friday story.
Beautifully shot with some great picturesque locations !!