SILENCE (Movie Review)
Unless you are a Catholic, ex-Catholic, an evangelical Christian, or a total Apostate to your former religion or church--THIS FILM IS NOT for you!
Martin Scorsese has wrought a film
which no 2 eyes will see in the same way.
On the surface, it is about the clash (the push back against Christianity and Priests by Buddhists and officials particularly in Nagasaki) resulting from Catholic evangelism inside Japan. Yet--honestly--the movie has reached beyond the history into a No Man's Land of self-sacrifice and lunatic zeal.
We go on a journey and become eyewitnesses to a beautiful display of utter STUPIDITY (i.e. becoming a 'Fool for Christ') and the bottom line reckoning of two men with the actual human cost of spreading YOUR faith to others living inside a foreign way of thinking.
As a former Jehovah's Witness, my ears, and eyes perked up from the get-go! (Oh, how we loved to throw ourselves into harm's way to prove our zeal and faith! Oh, how seemingly noble it all was (in our own mind) and Oh how empty it all was of rational meaning!)
How then, to review this film?
If you are at all familiar with the classic novel HEART of DARKNESS you'll understand the architecture of this plot.
Two young priests mentored and converted by an older Priest (Liam Neeson) are vexed to discover a report that he has renounced his faith and has become Apostate after converting thousands of Japanese to Christianity.
The two priests feel called to take a gargantuan journey into Darkness in hostile Nagasaki to find and "save" him from his renunciation.
They love him...and "saving" is what Christianity does--right?
Along the way they discover, much to their horror, dozens of desperate Christianized native Japanese hunted and brutalized into near extinction.
The Japanese Christians are desperate because the man (Neeson) who converted them was captured and tortured and removed--they have no one as Confessor to absolve them of their sins.
I won't go into the in's and out's of the journey and people because it's meant to be a learning experience for the Priests and US in the audience.
What you will witness is harsh, blood-curdling torture along the way whereby Christians are given the choice of STEPPING ON JESUS (a medallion with an iconic image of the Saviour) effectively publicly renouncing Him and Catholic beliefs altogether. If they comply--they go free! Otherwise, the torture continues to the point of being burned alive, drowned, decapitated, or...well, you get the idea, right?
I'll stop right here.
An intelligent human being should clearly be able to reason their way out of such a situation--so you might think--right?
You go to God in prayer and say, "Hey Lord--I'm loving you all the way but I'm going to pretend to renounce you. You forgave Peter for denying you 3 times, right?"
I never did this as a Jehovah's Witness. The Christians in the movie didn't do it either. Why not?
BECAUSE a FOOL doesn't think.
A FOOL follows orders blindly. We listen to our leaders!
If you go see this film, you are waiting for the final confrontation between the former mentor (Neeson) and his battered and beleaguered younger self in the form of the young man, Priest trying to save him.
This conversation was like sticking my head inside a giant bell and having the outside struck by a hammer!
It resonated into every cell of my body because I have been both men in my lifetime. I clearly understand the argument from both sides. I have reached the conclusion you will discover at the very end. I already reached this conclusion years ago.
Imagine an Apostate in Jehovah's Witnesses who was former Elder, Pioneer, a Ray Franz sort of fellow sitting down with a younger Elder whom he converted years previously---this is the conversation at the film's climax.
Should you spend the time necessary to go see such a movie?
I can't answer for you. I can only say I'm glad I did.