... in the light of "Silence"

Published on 27 Mar 2017
Japanese maple with light shining through.

There has been much interest recently in Scorsese’s fllm, “Silence”. For those who may not know, the film, twenty years in the making, is based on the Japanese Catholic, Shusaku Endo’s novel. 

The story, set in the 17th century, explores the historical apostasy, under torture in Nagasaki, of the senior Jesuit, Ferreira and subsequently also that of the younger priest Rodrigues, who travels to Japan to find out what exactly happened to his former mentor. Whilst Endo’s film is widely and justifiably considered to be a work of art, there is nevertheless polemic surrounding the subjective viewpoint of the author on whose text the film is based. Japan, he states is a swamp where Christianity can only rot. As a Catholic baptized here in Japan, it hardly seems so to me. My awareness of the historical pathway of Christianity here does nothing but refute that notion. Further light is thrown on “Silence” by the opera of the same name composed by Teizo Nakamura in 1993. It was recently performed in Nagasaki and Tokyo, and I attended both.

In the final scene of the opera, the apostate hero, Rodrigo lifts the instrument of his torture, an effigy of the Virgin Mary on which he has been compelled to trample, to his breast. The stage is flooded with light. Rodrigo is with God, and as an audience member, I was a witness.