“Do we have this kind of faith in America?” Academy Award-Winning Director Martin Scorsese asks when discussing his faith and the faith of the characters in his most recent film, Silence, released on December 23, 2016.
The film is based on Shusaku Endo’s 1966 novel, Silence, a work of historical fiction based on true events. The film stars Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver, and Liam Neeson as 17th century Portuguese priests who travel to Japan to spread the gospel and are persecuted and tortured along with new Japanese believers.
The crux of the film is the cause or possible avoidance of persecution, torture, and martyrdom for one’s faith. How much does a person’s faith mean? How far is someone willing to go when his/her beliefs will result in persecution, torture, and death?
Scorsese explains both the book and the film are about:
… the depth of faith, struggle for essence of faith, stripping away everything else around it, the vehicle that one takes towards faith can be very helpful for the church (ie. sacraments), but ultimately it has to be yourself, you have to find that faith and a relationship with Jesus.”
Scorsese was deeply influenced by a young priest during his formative years living in New York City. He was both an alter and choir boy, who found solace in the Roman Catholic Church in his neighborhood. But Sicilian Father Francis, who mentored him for six years, made a lasting impression on him through the use of literature, cinema, and music. Scorsese once aspired to be a Mariannhill missionary and briefly attended a seminary preparatory school.
He was “crushed,” however, when he realized that becoming a missionary wasn’t his calling. Instead, he sought to live “a good life” outside of the church and to pursue work that allowed him to communicate his faith and what a “good life” looked like.
In response to his own question he answers:
Does our culture here reflect that kind of faith? I don’t think it does. Our faith here now is technology. But when they pull the plug from technology there’s still go to be something.”
The film, he argues, is more about the “inside-out, not the outside-in” story of the missionaries. Spiritually, the film goes to the depths of compassion, the relationship between the main character and Jesus, and challenged Scorsese’s own belief about life and faith.