Grade A

Feudal Japan: Christianity has been outlawed; priests have been expelled from the country but a few remain in hiding to keep teaching the converts.  Those who are caught are given a chance to renounce their faith; and if they don’t, torture and execution will follow.  Martin Scorsese directs and co-writes “Silence,” an emotionally powerful movie about two Jesuit priests (played by Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver) who volunteer to go to Japan and risk a horrible death in order to find a missing, high-ranking Jesuit (played by Liam Neeson) who was reported as captured and tortured by the Japanese until he apostatized.

“Silence” is a complex movie because of the multiple themes running through it: what are people willing to sacrifice to hold on to their faith and religion; is it okay to renounce one’s faith, without truly meaning it in one’s heart and mind, in order to avoid torture and death; if God exists, why does God allow the suffering and deaths of those who are faithful and loyal to God; which religion is the true religion; does one religion have a right to call other religions heresy, and by doing so is it a form of self-importance and ethnocentrism; etc.  The numerous, elongated scenes of torture will also be hard to watch for most people — yes, this is a movie, but the depictions of torture and executions of the Christian Japanese and European priests are based on what happened to this group hundreds of years ago.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Silence” is the scene when **SPOILER ALERT** Neeson is brought to Garfield so Neeson can explain to Garfield why Christianity doesn’t work for most Japanese, and why Neeson renounced his religion.  While Neeson does give some valid points, the audience is left to wonder if Neeson is just playing along to protect his own life, or does he really believe in what he is saying?

“Silence” is a great piece of art that burdens the heart with sadness and horror at what people can do to others; and it also uplifts the spirit by showing the courage and sacrifice of those who will take death over renouncing their religious beliefs.  This movie is not for everyone, but for those of the Christian faith and those who love well-crafted movies, “Silence” will speak loudly to your soul.

— M