I’m not the kind of person who cries at the movies, but watching Silence made me want to cry. This movie is not a family-friendly, feel-good faith movie. Nor is this a film with easy answers like many Christian films. It’s a compelling character study and teaches the audience about the necessity of the priesthood, the reality of martyrdom, and spiritual darkness. Although the story is based on a historical fiction novel, there are many truths within the movie that can be found in reality and I highly recommend this movie to those who want to understand these truths.
The Necessity of the Priesthood
During the first act of the film, Fr. Sebastio Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) and Fr. Francisco Garrupe (Adam Driver) ministered to the villagers. They celebrated Mass and the sacraments of Baptism and Reconciliation. The villagers treated the two priests with great reverence and it was clear that they were starved in their faith.
The vocation of the priesthood comes with a lot of responsibilities that center around tending to people’s spiritual needs. A priest isn’t just someone who leads a religious service or performs marriages. He acts as a counselor, a confidant, and an advisor. Most priests will never marry, but there is a reason why Catholics call their priests “Father.”
It’s a great testament to Garfield and Driver that they can convey these characters so well that they feel like real people. Director Martin Scorsese conveyed the Mass and other sacraments shown in the film with a compelling reverence. You can get the sense that while the story is fictional, you can probably find evidence of the villagers’ devotion and priests who minister to the poor in real life.
The Reality of Martyrdom
Many warriors often see a great honor in dying for a cause. Fr. Rodrigues and Fr. Garrupe both thought that being a martyr would be a great thing. Silence shows that martyrdom is a brutal event. The villagers were willing to die to protect the priests and the ways in which they died or were tortured weren’t pretty.
The villains of this movie weren’t your standard, moustache-twirling devils incarnate that one may see in something from Pure Flix. The events of the film show that struggle between the priests and the Japanese authorities wasn’t a conflict of one religion against another, but one of xenophobia and a lack of cultural understanding from both sides.
Once again, there is a bit of truth hidden in this fictional conflict. The brutality of the way the villagers are killed off calls to mind the current events of Christians being beheaded by ISIS and the churches and holy sites destroyed in the midst of the many wars going on in the Middle East.
Fr. Rodrigues’s main struggle throughout the film is wondering whether God is really present in the silence. Although the film never says it out loud, Garfield portrayed Rodrigues as struggling with an intense spiritual darkness, a dark night of the soul. His struggle only got worse as he watched the people he ministered to suffer or face execution to defend him. It’s also implied that Fr. Rodrigues simply didn’t know how to cope with the darkness he struggled with and that eventually led to his tragic downfall.
Many people have this misconception that Christianity is just a feel-good thing. The reality, however, is that even people who have great faith or a strong belief system can struggle with darkness. It doesn’t mean that people who have faith are hypocrites. It just means that they are human, understand those who lack faith, and live out their lives following their faith regardless of how they feel.
I highly recommend that people see Silence to get a good view on these themes and to get some understanding on the struggles that are happening to Christians in the Middle East. I also hope that the film can give insight on the grittier sides of faith. Silence may not be a pretty movie or even based on a true story, but it’s grounded in a lot of realism that I think a lot of people can learn from.