Although director Martin Scorsese has often explored the Christian religion in his films, his latest project, “Silence,” may be his most successful to date. As well it should, considering the movie took three decades to make. And now, Scorsese has managed to gain approval from one important leader of the faith: Pope Francis.
“Silence” begins as a journey to find one man in a strange land, but the film then morphs into a true test of faith. Set in Japan in the early 1600s, the plot follows the journey of three Jesuit priests as they venture into unknown territory. Father Ferreira, played by Liam Neeson, was doing his part to spread the word of God throughout Japan. At this time, Christianity was a forbidden religion, and Ferreira is captured by a man known as the Inquisitor. Ten years later, Fathers Rodrigues and Garrpe receive word that Ferreira has renounced the faith, so they volunteer to travel to Japan in search of their mentor.
The two priests are smuggled into the country by a Japanese guide and are swiftly overwhelmed by the number of Japanese residents who desire their services. They must give confession only at night so as not to attract attention. Still, the two priests are discovered by the Inquisitor, which causes suffering for the local villagers and eventually leads to their death.
In this film, Scorsese veers away from many of his usual directorial choices. Although he’s no stranger to faith-based films, this newest venture seems decidedly different. He uses no modern music or dazzling cinematography. He simply tells the story — and the result is remarkable.
Scorsese’s films have not always been met with accolades. While 83% of Americans identify themselves as Christians, many have expressed outcry after viewing some of his other movies (most notably, “The Last Temptation of Christ”). However, Scorsese definitely has one fan in Pope Francis, who recently allowed the filmmaker to screen “Silence” at the Vatican.
The film was shown in the chapel near a large-scale crucifix, an image that the director found to be “quite stunning.” Pope Francis, who was familiar with the film’s source material, hopes the film “bears much fruit” and thanked the director for being there.
Reverend James J. Martin, who worked as a consultant on the film, says that Scorsese “was very engaged and energetic and really impressed the Jesuits in the audience with the depth of his spirituality.” He went on to say that “you could not make a spiritual film like that without being a spiritual person. It would come off as empty.”
“Silence” opens Christmas Day in theaters nationwide.