A while back my wife and I watched the movie “Silence” on iTunes for $0.99. iTunes offers a $0.99 movie every weekend so we went for it.
I saw the “The Mission” when I was younger and really enjoyed it. “The Mission” seemed to me, to explore the Christian faith and evangelism with sensitivity and depth. The Catholic overtones were enjoyable and it didn’t come off as kitsch.
I’ve seen plenty of contemporary Evangelical films and I applaud the spread of the gospel in whatever form it takes. Some of these more recent movies seem sensational and simplistic, however. Everything always works out with a little prayer, some great speeches, and a dose of hardship.
When I heard about “Silence” I thought, good, I’ll enjoy this one. I’ll give the story line and then give a few comments.
The acting, cinematography, and dialogue was excellent. I don’t want to focus on these elements so much. The theology behind the movie is what grated on me. This weakened form of Christianity was excessively bothersome.
So, here is the plot line. Christianity has come to Japan. A priest named Ferreira, so it is said, has recanted his under persecution. Two younger Jesuits, Rodrigues and Garupe, decide to investigate, believing it impossible that the older priest has recanted. They go to Japan.
They find a Christian faith alive and growing. However, the Japanese authorities are doing all they can to stamp out the faith. They go after the Christians with the goal of getting to the priests.
The Japanese authorities persecute the believers, all the while, giving them the option of recanting. The authorities are trying to get at Rodrigues. Additionally, Rodrigues sees them getting killed for the sake of the faith and it bothers him. If he would only recant his faith, the other believers would be spared.
He is urged to recant, to feign it, anything just to bring relief to the persecuted ones. Ferreira shows up and urges Rodrigues to recant because Christianity is simply not taking in Japan. Rodrigues sees his friends dying, Garupe dies because he refuses to recant.
Finally, Rodrigues is pressed to the point of breaking. The Japanese officials urge him to recant (“Its just a formality.”), Ferreira as well, Christians are on the line for this. Then a voice is heard saying, “Come ahead now, its alright. Step on me. I understand your pain. I was born into this world to share men’s pain. I carried this cross for your pain. Your life is with me now. Step.” At this point, Rodrigues steps on the imprint of Christ an a formal recantation of his faith.
By recanting, Rodrigues brings relief to the saints. It seems like he compromises his love for God in order to love his neighbor. This I thought to be fundamentally disingenuous. Why? The faith one renders to Christ is unto Christ, not the priest. It is not the responsibility of the priest to “save” the believers. Their faith is not tied to a priest and it seemed that the priests were exercising overreach and subsequently inserted themselves inappropriately.
Also, nothing is clear in this film. I get it, post-moderism, struggle, ambiguity, and being content with mystery….blah, blah, blah. I didn’t get the clarity of foundational Christian tenets. For instance, Christ commands total allegiance. The duplicity of the priests and then these little teasers (Rodrigues, after recanting dies with a cross in his hands), give us an unclear note. What is a recantation and what does it mean to die for Christ? Sure, we do struggle and we do deny Jesus but then what? What about the Scripture that speaks to being denied by Christ if we deny him?
It was an enjoyable film but on the balance, I felt like there was too much ambiguity and lack of clarity. Someone might say, “life is complicated and you don’t have all the answers.” I agree but on the big issues, we do.