Silence is about the dangers and sufferings of early Christians in Japan. It also shows how the local government reacted to this Western religion and the lengths they’d gone in order to break Christian priests. At length, it narrates how these Christian priests have fallen for and from their faith, either through death or great torture. It features their moments of doubt both in themselves and in their God.
The film have stunning landscapes and great photography. Every detail is made to be pleasing to the eyes. Even character deaths are made poignant to a fault. I won’t go on about how visually appealing the film was. Let the technical critics deal with that. I want to talk about how Silence presented Japan and Christianity.
JAPAN AND CHRISTIANITY
Though not mentioned in the film, there could be so many reasons that the Japanese government had to be vigilant of this religion.
The 1600’s is the height of the Age of Exploration. European countries are going out to the New World, to discover new frontiers and of course, establish their claim to these lands. More often disguised as missionary voyages, these trips are actually economic exercises, designed to increase the wealth of their country of origin. At this time, Japan has one of the most advanced societies in the East. They may have seen through the movements of European countries and recognized Christianity as a ploy to invade their land.
Also, Christianity may cause structural strain because of the doctrines it preaches. For the Japanese peasants during the 1600s, Christianity is a most agreeable prospect. In the strict caste system of their society, they’re people who were born to do hard labor. It’s their duty to pay taxes and endure worst living conditions. They were serfs, subject of daimyos who claim to give them protection. Apparently, they didn’t feel secure at all, as they seek solace in the idea of a God who’ll reward them a place in Paradise after they die. While the daimyo’s demands are too high, God only requires faith. While they were raised to believe that not all men were created equal, here’s an idea that all men were created in the likeness of God. It’s a clear choice for this people.
In a worst case scenario, this might even lead to rebellion. Christianity worships Jesus, son of God, whose reign is prophesied to be supreme among all peoples of all nations.
WHAT SILENCE TELLS ME:
Silence shows what these early missionaries lack – a deep understanding of the current culture and customs of the people they wished to convert to Christianity. They failed to understand the workings of Japanese society. They failed to anticipate the interpretation of these doctrines in the Japanese point of view. It seems that the promise of Paradise have become more important than any other Christian teachings.
Japan and Christianity is like oil and water. In fact, even today, only 1% of Japan’s population are Christians. This is a strong proof that even after centuries of crusading for this faith, oriental beliefs and religions still dominate this eastern country. I’m afraid it is what as the film says, Japan is like a swamp. Nothing can grow there (in terms of propagating Christian beliefs). At least, that 1% now enjoys the freedom of religion. This film was made to commemorate and honor the brave men and women of faith who faced persecution.
MOST MEMORABLE PART:
“Before it’s all right to be a Christian. It’s so unfair that I only get to live now [when Christians are being persecuted].”
This is Kijichiro’s lament. I’m not sure how to interpret his presence in Padre Rodrigues’s life. Sometimes, I look at him as temptation personified, and sometimes, I see him as the personification of Hosea’s* wife. He commits sins again and again. Then he repents again and again. And the Lord (thru Padre Rodrigues) pardons his sins again and again. He’s an authentic human being – always prone to committing mistakes, contradicting himself, feeling guilty and wanting to repent.
*If you’re familiar with the Christian Bible, Hosea is a prophet with an unfaithful wife. She commits adultery again and again. But Hosea takes her back every time. Their relationship symbolizes the love that God has with His chosen people (Israel). No matter how many times they’ve sinned, God’s always willing to take them back.
MOST HEARTBREAKING PART:
“It took four days for Mokichi to die.”
In a manner that’s very reminiscent of Jesus’ last moments, Mokichi’s persecution included being tied to a cross until he dies. This cross stood on a rocky coast, facing the ocean. It left him, and two others, exposed to the strong waves and the hot sun. And when his fellow believers died, he begged God to welcome their souls and to get a place ready for them in Paraiso.
Check out the complete cast and characters here.
Credit goes to Teaser-Trailer.com for the featured image on this post.