Silence

A review of the film starring Liam Neeson.

Readership: All
Theme: Giving the gift of yourself to others.
Length: 950 words
Reading Time: 3.5 minutes + 14:23 minute video
Spoiler Alert: This post contains plot spoilers of the film, Silence.

In Martin Scorcese’s film, Silence, Liam Neeson portrays Father Cristóvão Ferreira, a Portuguese missionary to Japan. It’s hard to know how accurate the book or the movie is to the real life events it depicts, but let’s assume it is for the sake of discussion.

For those readers who would rather read than watch, Storgy offers a beautiful review of the movie here. The following excerpts are from Storgy.

Silence – The Deconstruction of Faith (Length 14:23)

The Question of Faith

As described in the video overview, the concept of faith is rigorously examined within a cultural context that is much different from what we are accustomed to in the west. When Sebastião askes himself,

“Men are born into two categories: the strong and the weak, the saints and the commonplace, the heroes and those who respect them. In time of persecution the strong are burnt in the flames and drowned in the sea; but the weak, like Kichijiro, lead a vagabond life in the mountains. As for you (I know spoke to myself) which category do you belong to?”

he is approaching faith from a westernized perspective characterized by a linear plot filled with heroes and villains. However, in Japan, religion is merely an historical or superstitious fable that is out of touch with present reality, and the concept of heroism is regarded to be more like egotistical foolishness rather than an inspiring savior. So instead, Ferreira and Sebastião are forced to revise their understanding of faith through the lens of suffering and sacrifice.

“Silence is about suffering: the suffering of Christ, the suffering of those persecuted in Japan by the inquisitor Inoue Masashige, the suffering of priests forced to give up their faith through mental and physical torture. But more importantly, it’s about the morality of suffering. It might be right to stubbornly refuse to korobu (to bow, surrender) your faith despite torture, but what about if it is someone else who is being tortured? What if others suffer because of your refusal?”

There is a lot to consider here, and I think the answers are not so clear cut at all. But in my opinion, the overriding value of Scorcese’s story is that it brings one to a place of deep introspection about the nature and purpose of faith itself, and how one might be called to emulate Christ in ways that are beyond our logical understanding. It is vitally necessary for one to decide for one’s self the answers to these questions.

Archetypes

The film contains some fascinating descriptions of male-female archetypes and analogies.

“Christianity is described by Inoue Masashige as the love of a competing concubine vying for the affection of a man (symbolically, the concubine is Christianity [or European powers] and the man is Japan). Sebastião responds that Christianity believes in monogamy, choosing only one wife. Inoue changes tack, describing Christianity as ‘the love of an ugly woman’ that Japan does not want or need.

This sentence in bold is a powerful line that has stuck with me since I watched this film. It was an enchanting analogy, but I knew there was something not quite right about it.

According to the Christ : Church :: Husband : Wife analogy, Christ is the man, and the Christian church (or perhaps the nation of Japan in this case) is the wife or concubine. To rephrase it another way, Japan (or the church collective in Japan), is not symbolized as a man (as in Masashige’s understanding), but rather a woman — the bride of Christ. I suppose the script writer did not have the wits nor a solid knowledge of Christian doctrine to have Sebastião spell this out as a rebuttal to Masashige in the book/film.

After some reflection, I realized that the symbolic archetype described by Masashige is inverted, but it is NOT inverted according to the structure of authority as the Christian Red Pill is used to thinking about feminism (shown in the above figure), but instead, is inverted according to engendered expressions. That is to say, Japan is a society that is solidly patriarchal in outlook, but one in which typical gender roles are reversed. Men hold positions of power in society, yet they are passionate, peevish, vainglorious, and whimsical, while women are dutiful, hardworking, responsible, and thoughtful. The nature of this inversion strikes westerners as utterly bizarre, but yet, it carries a mysterious, even seductive appeal.

If the reader takes the time to ponder on this profound switcheroo for a moment, you’ll begin to understand Japanese culture very acutely. You’ll understand…

  • Why Japanese p0rn is so popular.
  • How Chivalry existed in feudal Japan.
  • Why the suicide rate in Japan is one of the highest among developed countries.
  • Given that women are the gatekeepers of sex, it also explains to some extent why the birth rate in Japan is one of the lowest in the world.

I did a little further research on Masashige, and found that some historians believe he was homosexual. This also matches up with this inverted concept of archetypes.

This understanding gives us a very vivid insight into Japanese social culture, and I assume these characteristics have continued within Japanese society up to this day.

I wonder whether our modern feminist culture in the west might eventually drift towards having these engendered characteristics one day. After all, we both have Chivalry in common.

Related

About Jack

Jack is a world traveling artist, skilled in trading ideas and information, none of which are considered too holy, too nerdy, nor too profane to hijack and twist into useful fashion. Sigma Frame Mindsets and methods for building and maintaining a masculine Frame
This entry was posted in Abortion and Birth Control, Cultural Differences, Discernment, Wisdom, Feminism, Fundamental Frame, Headship and Patriarchy, Holding Frame, Homosexuality, Introspection, Japan, Male Power, Models of Failure, Organization and Structure, Reviews, Self-Concept, Society. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Silence

  1. Eric Francis Silk says:

    I haven’t seen the Scorcese film version (there was also a Japanese language film version made in 1971, which I haven’t seen either). I read the original novel.

    The most important theme is one I’ve cited here before, which is the climactic scene where the priest has to make a choice of whether he will trample the image of Christ or not. What do you do in the moment of crisis? Do you trample on your own beliefs in service of a more important goal?

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    • Oscar says:

      “Do you trample on your own beliefs in service of a more important goal?”

      There is no “more important goal” than serving Christ.

      Matthew 10:32-33
      32 “Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. 33 But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.

      What did the Apostles do when faced with similar questions? What did St. Peter do when the Romans led his wife to her cross? He looked at his beloved wife, with whom he’d shared the vast majority of his life, and said to her, “Remember the Lord.”

      There are other examples in Foxe’s Book of Martyrs.

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      • Eric Francis Silk says:

        We’ve been over this Oscar. Have you read the book or seen the film? Are you saying that you wouldn’t trample on the image of Christ if you were in the priest’s place?

        What does the concept of “crisis” mean to you?

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      • Oscar says:

        “We’ve been over this Oscar. Have you read the book or seen the film? Are you saying that you wouldn’t trample on the image of Christ if you were in the priest’s place?

        What does the concept of “crisis” mean to you?”

        I’ve already answered all those questions, Eric. My answers haven’t changed. You, by contrast, have not answered my questions.

        Do you see an exception in Christ’s words that say He’ll confess you before His Father in heaven if you deny Him before men “in service of a more important goal?”

        Please answer the question this time, for a change.

        Like

    • Eric Francis Silk says:

      “It was not a Christ whose face was filled with majesty and glory; neither was it a face made beautiful by endurance of pain; nor was it a face filled with the strength of a will that has repelled temptation. The face of the man who then lay at his feet was sunken and utterly exhausted…. It was this concave face that had looked at the priest in sorrow. In sorrow, it had gazed up at him as the eyes spoke appealingly: ‘Trample! Trample! It is to be trampled on by you that I am here’ … The priest raises his foot. In it he feels a dull, heavy pain. This is no mere formality. He will now trample on what he has considered the most beautiful thing in his life, on what he has believed most pure, on what is filled with the ideals and the dreams of man. How his foot aches! And then the Christ in bronze speaks to the priest: ‘Trample! Trample! I more than anyone know of the pain in your foot. It was to be trampled on by men that I was born into this world. It was to share men’s pain that I carried my cross.’ The priest places his foot on the [image].”

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      • Oscar says:

        So, is that a “yes”, or a “no”?

        Do you see an exception in Christ’s words that say He’ll confess you before His Father in heaven if you deny Him before men “in service of a more important goal?”

        Please answer the question this time, for a change.

        Like

  2. Jack says:

    Seems like the comments have already dried up, so I’ll venture into this a little further.

    Jesus came to relieve us of certain kinds of suffering, but faith draws another kind of suffering. It’s hard for us to discern what kind of suffering is a result of a lack of faith, and what kind of suffering is a part of having faith. Jesus is the only one who truly understands how to respond when He is faced with hatred, and He teaches us to carry the Cross the same as He did.

    There is something about this film that strikes to the core of what faith is and the purpose of suffering. I think it is a great springboard for us to jump into a mystical approach to these things, provided that we are being honest and introspective.

    To be honest, I have struggled with the same question the priests struggled with in the film, and I still struggle with this at times. In my own spiritual walk, I’ve gotten the impression that Jesus wants me to cast my burdens on Him, to “step on Him” as the movie portrays very vividly, and that doing so is an act of faith in Him, a reliance on His work on the cross. On the face of it, it appears to be rebelliousness or apostasy (as also portrayed in the film), but the irony is that Jesus is the only sure foothold in taking a step upwards. But it is an irony that just seems so irreverent and sacrilegious that most conscientious people can’t come to terms with it. This is exactly why Jesus said,

    Matthew 21:31 (NKJV)
    Verily I say unto you, that the publicans and the harlots go into the Kingdom of God before you.

    Do we understand the symbolism of stepping on Christ? In fact, we all step on Christ. As NovaSeeker said,

    “The central Christian concept of sin and grace is that one’s prodigality is a function of one being alive.”

    But most people deny this reality because they don’t want to confess it as sin and come to the Cross. Too many people have the notion that religion is a system of religious beliefs and they think that they are “good Christians” if they somehow manage to maintain the cerebral discipline and lifestyle habits necessary to live according to those beliefs. They substitute this for true faith as a method to justify themselves and avoid coming to the Cross. But when we become conscious of how we step on Christ, then it can be transformed into faith. Through our awareness, confession, and work of the Holy Spirit, the stepping can become less sacrilegious and more redemptive.

    The crisis of faith comes when we are in a situation in which we step on Christ out of desperation, just as the priests in the film. In this case, do we stick to the idea that stepping on Christ is equivalent to apostasy? Do we understand the flip side of the coin — the mystical aspects of faith, humility, and trust that come when we fully rely on Christ in our helpless state?

    Like

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