Silence

2016 December 16
by Stacy Smith

Last night I attended a screening of Martin Scorsese’s new film Silence, based on the 1966 novel 沈黙 (Chinmoku) by Shusaku Endo, himself a Japanese Catholic.  It is the story of a Jesuit missionary sent to 17th century Japan, who is played with great nuance by Andrew Garfield.  He and his followers endure horrible persecution during this period when 隠れキリシタン (Kakure Kirishitan or Hidden Christians) are targeted for their beliefs.  Having lived in Kyushu I had a vague sense of what had taken place in Nagasaki at that time, but not the extent of the barbaric ways Christians were killed and tortured.

Scorsese’s pursuit of making this film began when he first read the novel while riding the shinkansen in 1989.  His passion for the project was sure to have influenced the stellar performances from the cast, which includes Liam Neeson and Adam Driver as Garfield’s fellow missionaries, and Issey Ogata and Tadanobu Asano as the Inquisitor Inoue and his interpreter.  Asano is fantastic in all of his works, and Ogata successfully captures his character’s idiosyncrasies without being too campy.  The film’s pacing was a bit slow so its length likely could have been cut, but the educational aspects alone made it worth sticking with.  I missed the JETAA book club several years ago when we read Silence, but I look forward to comparing it to the movie. 

By the way, Silence was shown at the Museum of the Moving Image (MoMI), one of our city’s hidden gems.  Along with a Scorsese retrospective the museum is currently featuring an exhibition on his career, something worth checking out.  It is also showing the epic five-hour Happy Hour from director Ryusuke Hamaguchi on December 31st at 1 pm, an intriguing film I previously wrote about here.

WIT Life is a periodic series written by professional Writer/Interpreter/Translator Stacy Smith (Kumamoto-ken CIR, 2000-03). She starts her day by watching Fujisankei’s newscast in Japanese, and here she shares some of the interesting tidbits and trends along with her own observations.

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