Silence

SILENCE TRIES TO EXPLAIN HOW JAPAN RESISTED CHRISTIANITY
Portuguese Catholics introduced Christianity to Japan in 1549, when Francis Xavier brought three Japanese Catholic converts from India, seeking to start a church in Nagasaki. Today only 1 percent of Japanese are Christians. Directed by Martin Scorsese, Silence is based on an historical novel by Shusako Endo that begins in the 1640s, when two Portuguese priests, Rodrigues (played by Andrew Garfield) and Garripe (Adam Driver), go to Japan to rescue Father Ferreira (Liam Neeson) from a mysterious fate. When they arrive, they are greeted by Christian Japanese who are forced to hide their religious practices out of fear that they will be tortured and executed. What had happened is that the shogun of the 1500s was accepting of a new faith, but the shogun of the 1600s feared that a Western takeover of Japan would inevitably occur if Christianity gained support among the population. Much of the film focuses on how the persecution of an estimated half million converts was carried out using the cruelest possible forms of torture on the two priests and their small flock. Whereas the Japanese converts are calm and silent in facing certain death, showing that their faith is deep, the two Portuguese manifest great emotion, particularly Father Rodrigues, who cries, cringes, and yells out to protest the cruelty. Japanese leaders clearly predict that if the priests give up their faith, Japanese followers will do so en masse. But Rodriques holds out, so Inquisitor Inoue (Issei Ogata) tries to reason with him. There is an opportunity in the film for an exchange of ideas, Inoue trumpeting Buddhism and Rodriques the Gospel, but no such dialog takes place. If so, the outcome might be a realization that much of Buddhism is compatible with Christianity. But the issue is one of geopolitics. Finally, Inoue introduces Rodrigues to Ferreira, who has become an apostate, celebrating wisdom that he finds in Japan and even writing to discredit Christianity. Ferreira’s demeanor is of someone brainwashed, though he saves his life by renouncing his faith. Then Rodrigues follows suit. Perhaps, because the story will seem implausible, Silence is narrated with voiceovers from a Dutch trader who claims to be a witness to the fictionalized events. But the story is based on facts, and for that reason the Political Film Society has nominated Silence as best film exposé and best film on human rights of 2016.  MH