This past month I decided to see a film in theaters. I think the last time I did this was when I went to see Spectre. This time around I watched a far better film: Martin Scorsese’s Silence. I left the theater with much to contemplate and have been inspired by reviews from Counter Currents and E. Michael Jones to write this piece.
Some mainstream reviewers were critical of pacing and length but I do not fully agree. The movie did seem a little long and I feel would have been just as powerful if it had been cut down by maybe 10-20 minutes. For the most part, however, the pacing was fine. I certainly have no issues with the cinematography or writing. The acting, too, was mostly without fault. I still question the casting of Adam Driver but Andrew Garfield actually did a great job. I was skeptical at first of having him in this film but he pulled off his role.
Driver and Garfield play two 17th century Portuguese Jesuit priests (Francisco Garupe and Sebastião Rodrigues, respectively) who go to Japan in order to discover what happened to their mentor Cristóvão Ferreira (played by Liam Neeson). Ferreira had previously been sending secret reports concerning the persecution of Japanese Christians and his fellow Jesuits by the Japanese authorities.
This movie is in many ways quite a depressing one – although that hardly makes it a bad film, in fact I quite enjoyed it – and is not about reaffirming faith, Catholic or otherwise. I don’t think it is meant to be anti-Christian but unlike Johnson I wouldn’t call it pro-Christian either. I suppose it could be called Zen in that it just is. I don’t know much about Scorsese’s political beliefs but I don’t think this movie was meant to be overly political. Although his film The Last Temptation of Christ could be considered an anti-Christian movie (although Jones suggests this decision was largely done to get back in the graces of Hollywood which as everyone knows is overwhelmingly Jewish) I feel as if Scorsese is grappling with his true feelings towards Christianity and belief in general with Silence and ultimately goes for a heterodox spiritualist way of looking at belief and Christianity more specifically.
One wonders what a perennialist like Coomaraswamy or Eliade or Guénon would have thought of this film?
E. Michael Jones has a lot of interesting things to say concerning the context of the film and the novel it was based on. The novel was written by Shūsaku Endō, a Japanese Catholic and it was written in 1966, after Vatican II when the Church was facing a spiritual crisis and this impacted missionary work as well. As Jones states, “is there any logos here [outside the Occident]?…. is Christ basically a European phenomenon? Is he the White man’s god?” This is more or less what was going through the author’s mind when writing the novel. Was Scorsese thinking the same when making his film version?
An interesting question Silence brings up in relation to missionary work, is the issue of how missionaries view themselves. Rodrigues at one point looks at his reflection and sees instead an image of Christ and later when talking to Ferreira, Rodrigues is told of how the suffering of the converts is due to his greed and ambition. One wonders, then, to what extent many missionaries are truly doing their work for the correct spiritual reasons?
Although, arguably, Rodrigues seeing himself as Christ could be seen as Rodrigues failing to understand his true mission in Japan and thus questioning and undermining it. There are several parts where it does seem as if Rodrigues believes he has made a mistake in attempting to spread the faith and this could all be a divine test of Rodrigues’ faith. A test I believe Jones would say Rodrigues ultimately fails, as Jones believes the voice which compels Rodrigues to apostatize is not that of Christ but of Satan.
I am no expert on the Jesuit order but from what I hear they have had an impact on development of “liberation theology” and other progressive liberal dogmas dressed up as religion. Indeed, in this film they come across as liberal, one-world types whereas the Japanese are clearly nationalists. Most of the common folk have disdain for priests as much as the ruling samurai.
And going back to the questions Jones brought up concerning race and religion, in Silence we are witness to how the faith of the Japanese converts diverted markedly from mainstream Catholicism. For example, the character Kijichiro constantly blasphemes and commits acts of treachery towards his co-religionists but then asks for forgiveness. He doesn’t seem to understand how confession works or how to act as a Christian. One couple thinks baptism means that from there on out this life will be like the heavenly abode. Ferreira states many thought Jesus was actually the sun and that he dies and rises every day. Throughout the film some of the captions are not translated (kirishtian, paraiso) to show how converts weren’t fully able to grasp Christian concepts.
A great line which is uttered several times by Japanese characters is that not all seeds can be planted in all soils. Whether utopian, liberal minded people like it or not we are not all the same and it is ridiculous to think we can all be made to believe and act the same. Different people have differing faiths or when they do share the same religion, it is often differing conceptions of it. The faith is suited to fit the people who practice it. Foreign faiths and cultures only bring discord and dissent.
The review at Counter Currents concludes with this,
“From an Identitarian point of view, Silence is somewhat paradoxical. On the one hand, it is a story about the heroism and suffering of European Christians and their Japanese converts. And for all the film’s fair-mindedness toward the Japanese Inquisitor — itself a very white thing — Silence remains an essentially Christian film dedicated, at the end, to the greater glory of God. On the other hand, all my sympathies ultimately were with the Japanese, not because white is bad and non-white is good, but because their cunning and ruthless struggle against a colonizing universalism is the struggle of all white men today.”
Though the point about Silence being an ultimately Christian movie is debatable (Jones certainly thinks it isn’t) the rest is very true. No doubt Scorsese did not mean for this film to be taken from a pro-White angle as Johnson has done (and I am doing here) and would probably identify more with an anti-colonial, third wordlist angle if racial conflict were to have been an issue for him.
Earlier I stated that Silence is quite bleak, but it is also fulfilling in a way too, for if there is a positive message for those of us on the right it is how it affirms the fact that humanity is not one united, undifferentiated mass as mainstream films so often do. Whether Scorsese wanted it to or not, Silence justifies the struggle of all those who stand against internationalism.