Scorsese’s “Silence” explores mystery of faith

The filmmaker's adaptation of Shusaku Endo's book about Jesuit missionaries has been in the works for decades
Still from the film Silence

Still from the film “Silence”

The following comes from an Aleteia article by Matthew Becklo:

Adapting Silence, a 1966 book about 17th century Jesuit missionaries, has been a passion project percolating in Martin Scorsese’s mind for decades. For a while, it looked like the film would never get done. But with the release of a full cast, a first still, and a brand new essay and storyboard courtesy of The Film Stage, Scorsese’s ‘Silence’ is well on its way to its scheduled 2016 release. [Trailer here]

The novel was written by Shusaku Endo, a little-known writer who was known as the “Japanese Graham Greene.” Both had a knack for gripping dramas, and both were united over East and West by a common Catholic heritage that informed their work – not as a means of proselytizing or smuggling in artificial moral lessons, but as a framework for unraveling human weaknesses and contradictions.

“Our interest’s on the dangerous edge of things,” Greene liked to say, quoting Browning. “The narrow boundary between loyalty and disloyalty, between fidelity and infidelity, the mind’s contradictions, the paradox one carries within oneself.”

Shusako Endo (image from ndbooks.com)

Shusako Endo (image from ndbooks.com)

With Silence, Endo draws us back four centuries into a Japan where Christian converts are tortured and killed en masse – and along the way, contemplates the “narrow boundary” between believing in and questioning God, between the knowledge of faith and the problem of evil.

That tension jumped out at Scorsese, who said that Silence has given him “a kind of sustenance that I found in only a very few works of art”. In an early forward for the novel, he wrote:

“How do you tell the story of Christian faith? The difficulty, the crisis, of believing? How do you describe the struggle? There have been many great twentieth century novelists drawn to the subject – Graham Greene, of course, and François Mauriac, Georges Bernanos… [Endo] understood the conflict of faith, the necessity of belief fighting the voice of experience. The voice that always urges the faithful – the questioning faithful – to adapt their beliefs to the world they inhabit, their culture… That’s a paradox, and it can be an extremely painful one: on the face of it, believing and questioning are antithetical. Yet I believe that they go hand in hand. One nourishes the other. Questioning may lead to great loneliness, but if it co-exists with faith – true faith, abiding faith – it can end in the most joyful sense of communion. It’s this painful, paradoxical passage – from certainty to doubt to loneliness to communion – that Endo understands so well, and renders so clearly, carefully and beautifully in Silence.”

To see the trailer for the movie, click here.

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  1. ““How do you tell the story of Christian faith? The difficulty, the crisis, of believing? How do you describe the struggle? ” I am sure there is a great epic story to be told about the great struggles to bring our holy faith to Japan, and the martyrdom of these brave Jesuits . One thinks of The Mission and the scene with Jeremy Irons shot and killed while carrying the monstrance. It grieves me, but does not surprise me, that Scorsese makes no mention of Jesus. I hope his movie is better than his theology.

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