Just before Christmas I purchased two copies of Shusaku Endo’s book Silence. One for me and one for my sister, as a part of her Christmas gifts. I wanted to read mine right away, but I had a stack of other books in the way, as well as finishing up the Fall semester of grad school. So, after a few papers, a couple books, and the turn of the year, I was able to begin. I had heard all the buzz for over a year now about Martin Scorsese adapting the book for the screen and how passionate he was about this project. I’ll admit, I think Martin Scorsese is an amazing film maker. (He actually wanted to become a priest while in high school) Yes, no doubt, many of his works are hard to stomach, and filled with violence and vile language. This I do not condone. But his talent for captivating an audience, weaving a story, and beautifully directing is unmatched.
But like I said, I bought the book. Once I finally could, when my evenings were free of extra work, my family was off to bed, and there was nothing else that had to get done first, I started reading. My typical reading time is from 10pm until 1am. And it didn’t take long before I was glued to the pages. And before I even realized it, I was finished. With the book complete, now I could go see the movie.
I don’t want to get to wrapped up in singing Scorsese’s praises, explaining the plot of the book, or posting a review of the movie. As a minister, I am very careful about recommending books or movies. I don’t want to put precedent on certain things for others, just because I personally enjoy them. But I will say a few things.
Silence is a book about persecution. Although it is historical fiction, the book speaks of a era in 1600’s Japan when Christians were killed for their faith. The book explains the travels of a Jesuit priest’s mission to Japan to assist the local churches, as well as seek the status of another Jesuit priest who preceded them. During his time in Japan the priest encounters the Church forced to hide their faith and forced to worship underground. Samurai and government officials roam from village to village seeking out Christians to apostatize publically or be killed.
Obviously the content is difficult. The themes are uneasy. Silence. God’s silence during pain and suffering. God’s silence during the persecution of His people. In the book God is portrayed as the one who remains silent. But God’s silence is the author’s connection to God’s message. It is the silence of accompaniment for the hurting, the forsaken, and the suffering. God choosing not to taken away the pain, but suffer it with them.
The book and the movie are both extremely well made. I can honestly say that I have never seen a movie follow so closely to the original book. But as always, I recommend reading the book first. So, if you’re going to read it, or if you’re going to go see it, do so with the right frame of mind. This is not your typical “Christian movie”. In a world where we flock to go see “God’s Not Dead 2” in the movie theater and think we’re watching persecution, let’s gain the proper perspective.