Scorcese's Silence

Martin Scorcese's Silence tells such an unusual and untold story--for that reason alone it's worth seeing.  Set in the 1640s, Silence, based on Shusaku Endo's book by the same name, tells the story of two Jesuits' trek to find their mentor, who, they've heard rumor, has apostatized the Catholic faith and become a Buddhist.  What these two young priests encounter in their journey into Japan--well I guess that I don't want to spoil it but let's just say that Buddhist are, lol, not exactly always staid pacifists.

No, this movie clearly demonstrates that torture and cruelty in the name of religion/ideology is not reserved primarily to the Christians in the Crusades.  In their effort to make the Jesuits and Japanese Christians apostize, the Buddhists employed tactics reminiscent of those used by the interrogators in In the Name of the Father--that is, a mental and physical torture so excruciating that the victims were essentially forced to capitulate to the dictates of their captors.

What I found remarkable about this movie, and a total breath of fresh air, is that it actually got told!  How often do we hear the narrative of Buddhists' cruelty?  It really speaks to Scorcese's non-politically correct frame of thinking, making it such a relief that he has so much clout in Hollywood.  (Now watch him come out with a Holocaust movie next year, lol.)

And I think that for this very reason, it's received a backlash from a certain "Western" mind; consider for example this reveiw from Macmurco of the Williamette Week, where he says "Let's just pretend that the new Martin Scorcese movie never happened", on the grounds that it's "culled from a footnote of history not important or interesting enough to be told outside of the classroom."

Oh, wow.  Love it that his rationale for not needing to tell this historically true narrative is that it has rarely been told before!  Freakishly fatheaded, but I guess extremely typical of pretty much all cultural critics self-identifying as progressive or liberal.

Anyway, I fiound it a relief that Scorcese was able to make and tell this politically incorrect story.  Although I found it no surprise at all really that he made a Jew, Andrew Garfield, the star of the movie--he may be able to adjust our understanding of history but will still have to genuflect to the Jews in the process.

The other reason that I really really liked the story in Silence is that it does not have a clearly stated message or moral or outcome.  The Jesuits say things like "the blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church" and that their religious message has a universal message to all people; and yet they seem to have been largely unsuccessful in preaching to the Japanese.  Currently, only about 2% of the Japanese population are Christians.

It doesn't have a "The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it" message that the Christian story brings, or that so many other Christian stories bring, such as the Virgin's Guadalupe Apparition, after which pretty much all of Mexico converted to Christianity.

No, Silence leaves you scratching your head and wondering "huh".  "Huh" that Buddhists, as I said, are not staid pacifists.  They can in fact be quite cruel.  And "huh" in that the blood of martyrs apparently is NOT the seed of the Church.  In some instances.

And makes you wonder at what the essence of Catholicism is, in that it would be worth risking torture and death.....what is really better than Catholicism over Buddhism, that one would be driven to risk his or her life for it?

Clarifying this question is one area where the movie felt a little weak; since I think that the answer to the question is (something like) the joy of having a relationship to Jesus and the ability, through following Jesus' teachings, of realizing a paradise of live here on earth (through practicing the Spiritual and corporal works of Mercy).

Yet I didn't hear any of the Jesuits or Christians ever articulate this clearly.  They talked about "Our Lord" but well I just wasn't left with a clear understanding of how their convictions would have enabled them to make such a life-threatening journey.

Anway, still a good move.  Loved it actually.  Not a pleasant story, but still good.

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