SHAFAQNA – Martin Scorsese, a Roman Catholic, has had a deep and involving relationship with his faith which has been beautifully illustrated in his film career spanning for more than 50 years. At one point, Scorsese contemplated joining the priesthood, before the allure of filmmaking got the better of him. In 1988, he directed The Last Temptation of Christ, a film that seemed to suggest Jesus had sexual desire for Mary Magdalene. This caused a furor with Christians and the Vatican in particular. His latest faith movie, Silence has received a different reception and comes 30 years after he signalled his intention to make it.
Silence is an adaptation of a 1966 novel of the same name by Shusako Endo. The movie follows two 17th century Jesuit priests, Father Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) and Father Garrpe (Adam Driver). In search of their lost mentor Father Ferreira (Liam Neeson), they venture into Japan, where missionary work has been brought to a halt by the persecution of Christians. The two priests must stay alive with the help of their guide Kichijiro (Yôsuke Kubozuka) and establish whether their hero really did renounce his faith as rumored, when pressed by Inquisitor Inoue (Issey Ogata). In their search for their mentor, the two priests are faced with a stark choice: they can save themselves and Japanese converts from death by crucifixion, burning and drowning but only if they renounce their religion. Scorsese described his work on making Silence while at a screening for the same in Los Angeles as a “Pilgrimage”. He remarked, “My way into spirituality happens to be Roman Catholicism. Over the years I have been concerned about just distilling it to the essence of how one should live one’s life in imitation of Christ, so to speak. This film enabled me to not only think about this but to work it.
For me the film isn’t finished.” The Vatican’s response to The Last Temptation of Christ in 1988 was harsh and isolating. The latest response to Silence has been anything but. Scorsese was recently invited to the Vatican to screen Silence and to meet Pope Francis. Scorsese reports that the Pope commented, “I hope the story of the film, knowing the book, bears much fruit.” In reviewing the movie, Helen O. Hara notes the following in GQ-Magazine, “And the substance, for anyone with even a passing interest in philosophy and theology, is fascinating, valuable and timely.
The story poses a choice between faith and doctrine, between the pure ideals of abnegation and compassion that are shared by humans whatever their religion (and by those with none) and the dogmas that divide believers from one another. With Christian terrorists recently on trial in the US and UK, and religious killing the great bogeyman of our times, perhaps it’s important to consider the yawning chasm between dying for, and killing for, your faith.” Silence is 160 minutes long and will be aired in the U.S.A. on December 23, before a nationwide release. While the film has already been snubbed by the Golden Globes and the Screen Actors Guild, there is talk of it receiving an Oscar nomination on January 24, 2017. This would add another feather to Scorsese’s feather studded hat.