The story of two Jesuit priests who, despite risking the death penalty venture into 17th century Japan where a ban against Christianity is severely enforced. They and other Christians are caught and forced into apostasy which takes the form of stepping on holy images. Those who refuse are crucified in the rising sea in the bay. The authorities infer that Christianity can co-exist alongside Buddhism as long as Buddhism remains the official religion and have subverted and co-opted previous missionaries to ensure Christianity fails to take a hold. Eventually even the missionary Rodrigo who appears to have held out against torture the longest – his own, and witnessing that of others – is forced to consider that God is silent and Rodrigo has to compromise his faith. Based on the novel by Shusaku Endo. —BFI
Masahiro Shinoda is one of the most prominent filmmakers of the Japanese New Wave, along with Nagisa Oshima and Shohei Imamura. While Oshima’s films were often a venue for political provocation and Imamura’s work seemed to be a bawdy refutation of Yasujiro Ozu’s refined passivity, Shinoda’s movies detail the spiritual emptiness of post-war Japanese life and search for some essence of the Japanese character.
Shinoda was born into one of the most illustrious families in central Gifu Prefecture in 1931. His ancestors were large landowners and village leaders of a small town that is now part of Gifu City. They also had a long literary and cultural heritage. His great uncle was the model for the main character in one of Toson Shimazaki’s novels, and Shinoda’s cousin is one of Japan’s leading abstract calligraphers. As a child, Shinoda was studious, applying himself to mathematics and physics; but by the end of World War II, he experienced the same sort of bitter disillusionment as… read more
Silence presents two sides of an argument about God and faith within an environment where certain choices can relieve pain, or save lives, at the expense of a perceived breach of faith. It asks: is suffering in vain when shouldered for a higher cause that continues to remain silent in the aftermath of human misery; is this higher cause possibly self-constructed?
Shinoda's adaptation of an acclaimed novel tells the fascinating story of two Portuguese priests who arrive secretly in Japan with the intention of converting the natives to Catholicism and to find out the truth behind the ominous disappearance of another priest who was their mentor years before. Aided immeasurably by the superb cinematography of Kazuo Miyagawa, the film is a harrowing and stylish historical drama...
I must admit that I haven't been convinced at all by the Shinoda movies I saw before Silence (Assassination and Double Suicide). Silence, on the contrary, impressed me a lot by the way Shinoda manages to make us understand why the Religious and the Political have to be kept separated if we want to survive as members of a society. Highly recommended.