Intent on investigating the truth behind Father Cristovão Ferreira's abrupt end of correspondence, the devout Portuguese Catholic priests, Sebastião Rodrigues and Francisco Garupe, set off to Japan, in 1633. In great disbelief, as the rumours of Ferreira's apostasy still echo in their minds, the zealous Jesuit missionaries try to locate their mentor, amid the bloodshed of the violent anti-Christian purges. Under those circumstances, the two men and the Japanese guide, Kichijiro, arrive in Japan, only to witness firsthand the unbearable burden of those who have a different belief in a land founded on tradition. Now--as the powerful Grand Inquisitor, Inoue, performs hideous tortures on the brave Japanese Christians--Father Rodrigues will soon have to put his faith to the ultimate test: renounce it in exchange for the prisoners' lives. There, in the ends of the world, a subtle change has begun; however, why is God's silence so deafening?Written by
Composer Howard Shore was originally hired to score the film. See more »
Father Rodrigues meets Monica and he asks her name. Once told, he replies "ahhh, like the mother of (St.) Augustine." He pronounces "Augustine" as "Oww-gus-teen" not the correct "Ahh-gus-tin" in English. See more »
1633. Pax Christi. Praised be God. Although for us there is little peace in this land now. I never knew Japan when it was a country of light, but I have never known it to be as dark as it is now. All our progress has ended in new persecution, new repression, new suffering. They use ladles filled with holes so the drops would come out slowly, and the pain would be prolonged. Each small splash of the water was like a burning coal. The Governor of Nagasaki took four friars,...
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For the Japanese Christians and their pastors Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam See more »
Based on Shusaku Endo's remarkable novel of the same name, a novel which many consider to be one of the very greatest of the 20th Century, this is a film I was very keen to see - but it took me a long time to get to. It's not an easy sell - over two and half hours on Catholic missionaries living and dying under brutal Japenese persecution. At the time of release, I remember one reviewer saying it was 'boringly pious'; an idea which seems to me to miss the point entirely.
Both novel and film seek to understand why the Christian faith didn't take root in Japan in the same way it did in so many other countries; why so many missionaries failed and even recanted their faith under horrendous persecution. The reality is that in many countries where Christian worship and faith is violently opposed, it flourishes rather than dies. So what was different in Japan?
That neither the film nor the book offers easy answers is the key; everyone - from the missionaries to the Japanese authorities to anyone who has studied this - has a theory, but none are completely satisfactory.
On hearing that Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver had been cast as the two Portugues Jesuits at the heart of this story, I was concerned that they would not have the gravitas necessary; what did work well, it seems to me, in their casting was that their deliberate blankness and sincerity work well, especially in the earlier stages, as the well-meaning missionaries in an alien culture. The film's cinematography is startling and beautiful; in the first half of the film, there are repeated shots through mist or smoke, clarity partially revealed in counterpoint to the missionaries' own certainty; as the film progresses, however, this is flipped - there is sharp crispness to the images, a reversal of the missionaries' increasing doubts, confusion and fear. Other shots throughout deliberately echoing religious art, a painterly style that sometimes even merges into a literal painting. These are the Westernised visions of faith with which we are familiar; but an authentically Japenese vision of what faith may look like is missing - evoking for me the stained glass windows in my own church in Cape Town, where every depiction of Jesus or a Biblical character has white skin.
There are hints of Heart Of Darkness and Apocalypse Now - the classic, critical story of Western colonialism; the noble, heroic Westerners journeying to 'dark places' to bring the light, discovering there's as much (or more) darkness in them as there is in the places they have come to.
There's so much more to be said; like the novel, this is doubtless a film that will yield more with repeated viewing, and with whatever spiritual or theological eyes one views it with. The title refers to much - the apparent silence of God in responses to the missionaries' prayers, the silence of those watching or suffering the atrocities of persecution - and the silence of those killed by it. The enforced silence of the Japanese church. As one character says, echoing the Biblical experience of Elijah, "...it was in the silence that I heard your voice."
The film ends with a moment of speculation and uncertainty; a reminder not to judge. A reminder, perhaps, to those so quick to criticise Scorsese's much misunderstood earlier work, 'The Last Temptation Of Christ'. Both of these films require patience, humility and deep reflection from the viewer. Both of them have much to teach even those who are most convinced of their faith; both of them are rich, rewarding, serious films which deserve repeated attention. My personal preference of the two is this film, not least because of my deep affection for the original novel. But it's a film I need to digest and pray on, and it will, I hope, drive me to a deeper reflection on 'Last Temptation....', and much thought on my understanding of mission, ministry and faith.
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