“I experienced so many emotions watching this film, none of them good – sadness, anger, frustration, helplessness, guilt, fear, worry, doubt. I asked myself so many questions. What would I do? Would I have the courage to not denounce my faith? Is that courageous or is it stupid?”
Silence was a beautiful film, but very difficult to watch. Not just because of the many, many scenes of torture, but because it was painfully long, repetitive, and slow, even laborious. Though it is beautifully shot and there are some poignant moments of theology and insight into the human psyche, it’s not an enjoyable movie in practical terms. If for no other reason than that it is just too darn long.
Yet, I think what it has to say, and even more, the way it made me think, is incredibly important. That’s why I think this is a film that every believer should watch. Not just watch. Experience.
Silence was a passion project of unparalleled director Martin Scorsese, a film he has been trying to get made since he first read the book on which it was based in 1989 – Silence, by Shūsaku Endō. It tells the incredible story of two Portuguese Jesuit priests who go on a mission in 1640 to find their mentor, Father Ferreria, who they have been told denounced his faith under severe persecution in Japan. They cannot believe that he could have ever denied God, no matter how great the persecution, so they go on a mission to find Ferreira and clear this slander from his name.
What follows is a long, painstaking journey into the world of persecution. Real persecution. Not getting upset because Starbucks doesn’t make a Christmas themed paper cup or that there isn’t prayer in public schools anymore or even that you may have been passed over for a promotion because you were standing up for your moral principles. Real persecution. People, your friends, your flock, being tortured to death in front of you because you refused to deny Christ.
It is so intense and so absolute that it doesn’t feel real. You don’t believe it actually happened. Like when you tell kids about the Holocaust for the first time – “People didn’t actually do that to other people, did they?” But it is true. It is real. AND it is still happening, all over the world today. People are literally being beaten, tortured, and killed for their faith in countries where Christianity is illegal or seen as a threat to the government. It’s not just a movie.
I experienced so many emotions watching this film, none of them good – sadness, anger, frustration, helplessness, guilt, fear, worry, doubt. I asked myself so many questions. What would I do? Would I have the courage to not denounce my faith? Is that courageous or is it stupid? If he just gave in to save those people’s lives, wouldn’t God forgive him? He forgave Peter for denying Him, right? But then there was Daniel and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. They all stood firm in their faith and were ready to go to the fiery furnace and the lion’s den, whether God saved them or not. And they changed the world with their faith.
Then quoting Paul to myself, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” To die is gain. Do I really believe that?