Coming in January to the UK is a new film by the eminent director Martin Scorsese called Silence, all about a group of priests who go to Japan to ‘save’ the soul of their old mentor. Film reviews praise the acting and storyline and it looks like it might be a useful dramatisation of Christian missions and evangelism which Year 10 students are studying as part of Component 1 of their GCSE RS. Rated an R in the US it is expected to be made a 15 rating in the UK.
The trailer shows two young priests heading out to Japan, to find their mentor Father Ferreira who they’ve been told has denounced Christianity and become a Buddhist with a wife and children. The Portuguese priests have to witness persecution and killings of any Christian converts and all the time they are tormented by God’s silence, and the question of whether this is the same as absence, or if God’s refusal to intervene has become an unimaginable and intolerable cruelty. “How can I explain his silence to these people?”
The film also delves into questions of God’s omniscience: if a believer is forced to recant (deny their faith in God), yet maintains a hidden unbreakable core of secret faith, a hidden finger-cross, is that a defeat or not? God sees all, of course, including the way a public disavowal of faith has stopped hundreds or thousands from believing. Is the public theatre of faith more important than a secret bargain with a silent creator?