Genre: Drama, History
Directed by Martin Scorsese
Starring Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver, and Liam Neeson
What is faith? Is it defined by or hindered by dogma? That is the question that Martin Scorsese’s Silence tackles. You don’t have to be religious to appreciate the conflict presented in the movie because it’s not a movie that encourages religion, it’s a movie that questions what role religion plays in a human being’s personal belief system. I’ve seen atheists whisper “please, please, please” with clasped hands during a big sports game. Who are they praying to? I’ve also seen Judeo-Christian zealots live in fear of someone’s evil eye, a pagan belief that runs contradictory to doctrine. In Silence, we watch as a human being struggles with the “faith” that he’s taught and discovers his own, true faith.
Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver play father Rodrigues and father Garupe, respectively, on a mission to Japan during the height of an inquisition. They’re tasked with locating the legendary father Ferreira, played by Liam Neeson, and disproving a rumor that he apostatized. That word, apostatize, appears often in the movie, and is at the core of the debate that the movie encourages between dogma and faith. The Japanese leadership did not want Christianity to flourish on their islands. They tried many ways to discourage its spread. They tortured many Jesuit missionaries and Scorsese shows us this abandoned method. It’s abandoned because it didn’t work.
The Inquisitor, played by Inoue Masashige, is a smart man and quickly understands that the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church. He takes a different approach and tries to discourage adoption of the spreading religion by discrediting the messengers. By getting the priests, the most committed followers of the word of Christ, to desecrate his likeness and renounce their faith, then the entire religion becomes a hoax and fades away. How does the Inquisitor accomplish this? He tortures his own people and puts the blame in the hands of the church, members of which can end the violence by… apostatizing. These former priests are then given Japanese wives and the position of checking imports for contraband, Christian paraphernalia, to prevent their spread in the country. According to the dogma, these acts in the service of the Anti-Christ and there is no coming back to the path of the righteous, abandoning any chance of admittance to the Kingdom of Heaven.
When you do something that goes against everything you believe to be universally true, can you still hold that belief in your heart?