There are two recently released films that are causing an explosion of debate on the MSM for the doubts and confusion* the Catholic viewer is left with in their underlying messages. (“Doubt and confusion”? Sound familiar?) The general opinion that a current lack of a clear, God-centred, Catholic message emitting from the Pontiff, a message without compromise, perhaps adds fuel to the fire of this confusion.
From Leonardo DiCaprio to Martin Scorsese, from “The Revenant” to “Silence,” Hollywood as usual feels the world’s pulse and shows how the Church is perceived, or at least the way the world would like to perceive it. It is probably not by chance that Pope Francis’s 2016 opened with a January 28 meeting with Leonardo DiCaprio – an ecological advocate, but above all an actor anxious to promote his new movie “The Revenant” – and closed with a meeting with popular director Martin Scorsese, who is going to release the movie “Silence,” an adaptation from a book by Shusaku Endo on the story an apostate Jesuit in the Japan of the anti-Christian persecutions.
These two movies have been widely discussed, and they shed light on some important aspects of faith, especially “Silence”. At the same time, both movies depict a Church that either is marginalized, considered a sideline of history or is not strong enough to confess the faith and give witness to it, remaining weak in the face of persecutions.
These are not trivial issues: they are the conditions “sine qua non” for understanding how the world wants to view the Church. Bishop Robert Barron, Auxiliary of Los Angeles and a well-known media personality, provided a vivid review of “Silence” in an op-ed posted at “Word On Fire”. In his article, he noted that the Church portrayed by the movie is a Church unable to fight to the bitter end.
The story behind “Silence” is well known. In the 17th century, two young Jesuits are sent to Japan, where the anti-Christian persecution is horribly bloody, to look for Fr. Christovao Ferreira, a Jesuit missionary and their mentor, who is reported to have committed apostasy. In the end, they discover that he really did commit apostasy, and that he lives with a wife that the State has given to him. The discovery happens in the midst of the pressures the two Jesuits are subjected to in order to force them to renounce their faith, pressures which include the crucifixion in front of them of Japanese Christians. The story focuses on Fr. Rodrigues. When he discovers that his mentor has committed apostasy, and while he faces the pain of Christians horribly tortured, he listens what he believes is the voice of Jesus which invites him to stamp on His image. He wills to do so, he wills to commit apostasy, and thus is portrayed in heroic tones as a ward of the State who like his mentor marries a woman chosen by the government.
That’s the point, according to Bishop Barron. Barron asks rhetorically whether the main characters would be depicted as heroes if they had not been Jesuits, but instead soldiers in a war, captured and tortured, soldiers who in the end renounce loyalty to their own country and choose to live a comfortable life among those who were once enemies. They would be depicted as traitors, not as heroes, Barron argues.
“My worry,” Barron insists “is that all of the stress on complexity and multivalence and ambiguity is in service of the cultural elite today, which is not that different from the Japanese cultural elite depicted in the film. What I mean is that the secular establishment always prefers Christians who are vacillating, unsure, divided, and altogether eager to privatize their religion. And it is all too willing to dismiss passionately religious people as dangerous, violent, and let’s face it, not that bright.”
The movie ends by showing Fr. Ferreira who wears a hidden crucifix, a sort of clue that he always remained Christian. But are such men as these really Christians? Is the reality of the martyrdom of Christians, firm in their faith, too complex, too seemingly inhuman to be accepted by people today?
[our emphasis] Read the rest THERE.
Monica Migliorino Miller, in her article, “Scorsese’s Silence: Many Martyrs—Little Redemption“, published on Crisis Magazine, concludes her own excellent analysis on this film with the warning: “Believers hoping for a film that explores Christian ideas from an authentic Christian context—should skip this one. Silence should also not be seen by the young, or those whose faith is not strong as the theology in this movie is complex, clever and seductive. However, if you are a mature Christian looking for a finely crafted, well-acted, disturbing film that provokes thinking and debates—then Silence is for you. Let the debates begin.”