|The actor:||Issey Ogata|
|The line:||“The price for your glory is their suffering!”|
Another Martin Scorsese movie, another movie with a screenplay like poetry: Jay Cocks again. Without doing the whole “let’s bring up all of my favorite quotes from the movie” thing again, it’s worth beginning by emphasizing the similar character of the screenplays. It’s beautifully worded, beautifully phrased. “Surely God heard their prayers as they died,” Rodrigues muses. “But did he hear their screams?”
One of the reasons that Silence is such a great movie is that it is so purposefully open to multiple interpretations. The film accepts Rodrigues’s basic decency and his belief in the value of human life. He is not a malicious man, even if a certain point of view (which I’m sympathetic to!) would decry him as a colonizing influence, venturing where he is both unwanted and unneeded. And yet the movie is sly on the question of what it is that motivates Rodrigues through so many hardships and sufferings and pains. Does he believe so firmly in the salvific power of Jesus Christ that he is willing to risk their deaths at the hands of the government? He starts the movie that way. And then the more he sees of these martyrdoms, the more it is insisted to him by Ferreira and Inoue alike that the Japanese martyrs die not for devotion to Christ but for admiration for Rodrigues, the less he’s sure of his own reasons for proselytizing. Silence has that early scene where Rodrigues and Garupe give Communion to Christians who are starved of the ritual and that closeness to God. I find that scene as moving as any death or torture in the movie; there is such relief and such profound hope in this sequence. And yet it is not long, despite the protestations of their fearful congregants, before Rodrigues and Garupe leave the village and start ministering to others. Is that duty, or is that pride? Whose glory is that for?
It’s hard to find Inoue and his translator sympathetic just as it’s difficult to be really partial to Rodrigues and Garupe. (The chicken and the egg, the instigator and the castigator, etc.) Yet when Inoue challenges Rodrigues with this line, the moral balance of the film shifts even if it’s only for a moment. For better or worse, people will accept some infelicitous (read: outright wrong) behavior from their governors because it’s considered expedient. People have a much more difficult time accepting those who put others in danger because it feeds their ego. What Inoue and Rodrigues are fighting is a war, not a battle of wills or a religious revival. Rodrigues and his little guerilla force are picked off man and woman alike, captured, imprisoned, tortured, beheaded and, if you grant their religious beliefs, forced apostasy. At what point is it true that Rodrigues—humane, even gentle Rodrigues—is doing what he’s doing because he values doing a good job in the eyes of the Church, seeking earthly reward, or simply feeding his own arrogance? Given your reading of the film, it may have happened long before this moment, back in Macao where Rodrigues and Garupe were advised not to go to Japan by a superior.
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