(THIS WEEK: DEATH)
An intriguing movie by the same man who offered The Last Temptation of Christ might have silenced some critics with Silence - his 25-year passion project that runs an epic 161 minutes long .
Director Martin Scorsese claims to have grown in his faith since he produced Temptation - what some called a scandalous and sacrilegious film about the sexual temptations that Jesus must have faced as a human.
“Silence” follows the path of two Portuguese Jesuit missionaries in seventeenth century Japan who go to primarily investigate the purported apostasy of their mentor who remains in Japan.
Upon their arrival, the priests are overwhelmed by the sacrificial love of the island Christians who face death if they do not renounce their Catholic faith.
The Japanese rulers ruthlessly guard their Buddhist beliefs through the cruelest of tortures. However, if the believer recants, he is set free.
The leaders eventually capture the priests through betrayal and center their apostasy strategies on the clergymen; thinking that their renunciation of the faith will work its way down to the common people and eventually squash the fledgling religion.
One of the missionaries meets his mentor and is stunned to find out that the priest did indeed, under the severest of torture, surrender to apostasy. Fearing the Japanese will continue to kill the Catholic townspeople if he doesn’t follow his mentor’s example, the young priest himself recants. As he is about to be cremated many years later, his hand holds a small crucifix leaving the impression that he died by living a lie in order to save the people.
Whatever Scorsese was trying to get across, he might have stumbled upon the truth that the priest may have deliberately sacrificed his convictions in order to mislead his captives, thereby saving the underground church.
The predicament of the idealistic priest may have been the absolution that the director was looking for Scorsese ends the film by dedicating it to Japanese pastors.
PORTAL TO HEAVEN: The young priest “died” by living. Such pragmatism may not be the best form of evangelism, though the priest played the hand that was dealt. He was willing to die by not recanting. However, that decision may have inadvertently killed the struggling church. It’s a type of “martyrdom” of the strangest kind and it is doubtful that it is going to be a common one. The priest’s love for Christ and the baby-church led him to crucify his dreams of spreading the gospel throughout Japan. Yet, with this “crucifixion" raised a church. God indeed works in mysterious ways…especially in Hollywood.
And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell…No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.
Matthew 10:28 (NIV), John 10:18 (NIV)