SILENCE (2016) – My rating: 8.7/10

silenceSilence is not for everyone.  It is a heartbreaking story about Jesuit priest whose job was to spread the Gospel (Good News).  In 1587, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, Imperial Regent of Japan and Unifier of the country banned Catholicism.  Japan, who chooses Buddhism as their nation’s religion.  Hideyoshi proclaimed Christianity as dangerous and executed 26 Christians in Nagasaki as a warning to those who went against Japanese customs.

After an Italian Jesuit priest, Father Alessandro Valignano (Ciarán Hinds) receives news that Father Cristóvão Ferreira (Liam Neeson), a Portuguese Jesuit in Japan, renounced his faith after being tortured. Ferreira’s two young pupils, also Portuguese, Fathers Sebastião Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) and Francisco Garupe (Adam Driver), set off in disbelief to find him. Kichijiro (Yōsuke Kubozuka), an alcoholic fisherman who fled Japan (later revealed to be a Christian who renounced his faith to save himself), agrees to guide them. At the Japanese village of Tomogi, the priests are surprised to find the local Christian population driven underground. They eagerly welcome the priests, who administer long-awaited sacraments and confessions to the people. A samurai searching for suspected Christians, whom the villagers refer to as “the inquisitor” (Issey Ogata), straps some of the villagers to wooden crosses on the beach and places them in the ocean, where the tide eventually kills them. The bodies are then cremated on a funeral pyre so that they cannot be given a Christian burial.

Garupe leaves for Hirado Island, believing that their presence forces the shogunate to terrorize the village. Rodrigues goes to Gotō Island, the last place Ferreira lived, only to find it destroyed. Wandering around Gotō, he struggles over whether it is self-centered and unmerciful to refuse to recant when doing so will end others’ suffering. He eventually reunites with Kichijiro, who betrays him into the hands of the samurai. An old samurai, who had earlier accompanied the inquisitor to Tomogi, tells Rodrigues that other captured Christians will suffer unless he commits apostasy.

Rodrigues is taken to Nagasaki, where he is imprisoned with the captured Christians from Gotō. At a tribunal, he is told Catholic doctrine is anathema to Japan. Rodrigues demands to see governor Inoue Masashige (Issey Ogata), who he learns to his dismay is the old samurai. Rodrigues is returned to prison, and Kichijiro arrives. He explains that court officials threatened him to give up Rodrigues, then says he is a Christian and asks to be imprisoned to be absolved of his betrayal through a confession, which Rodrigues reluctantly grants him. He later is released after agreeing again to step on a fumi-e (a crudely carved image of Christ), an act symbolizing rejection of the faith. Rodrigues is brought to witness a famished Garupe, and three other prisoners (who have apostatized) about to be drowned. Garupe refuses to apostasize, and the prisoners are drowned.

While Silence is not based on a true story it is based on true events.  Japan used the above mentioned methods to get Christians to renounce their religion and did in fact, kill 26 of them as a warning.  55 more were killed in 1632 through out the missionary period on Mount Unzen and approximately 1000 were killed overall.  The ban was lifted in 1873.  There are roughly 500,000 openly practicing Christians in Japan today.  Silence was directed by Martin Scorsese and is a historical drama worth your attention.  It’s an incredible film with incredible acting and an incredible story to tell.

[SILENCE is nominated for Cinematography]

 

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