Scorsese to Film Endo’s ‘Silence’

12 02 2009

NAGASAKI–Acclaimed director Martin Scorsese is expected to begin shooting later this year for his film adaptation of Shusaku Endo’s novel “Chinmoku” (Silence), a moving story of Christian martyrdom in Japan.

Filming will start in New Zealand as early as August, and will be in theaters in autumn 2010. Whether some scenes will be shot in Japan remains to be decided.

full article

I dont expect much from this movie for two reasons.  1 I am not a fan of Scorsese.  He might do well with this movie (I hope) but so far I havent watched anything of his that I like.  2 I read Silence over five years ago when I was a lapsed Catholic and I didn’t really like it at the time.  I have changed though so maybe I would like it more now but currently I’m not a fan of the book either.  With that said will I watch the movie?  Of course I will I just have low expectations.




22 responses

13 02 2009
Jeff Miller

I read it last year and loved it, but have little hope for the movie. In fact he is about the last director I would have wanted to do it.

13 02 2009

I read the story and found it was well written, but found the ending apostasy rather disappointing. Seemed to be in support of apostasy, as though Jesus would have wanted people to deny him. Doesn’t seem that giving up one’s faith in the eternal is worth a few more years on earth. Endo strayed off the reservation towards the end of his life towards syncretism too. The story of the Japanese martyrs needs to be told, but not in a way that makes their efforts seem futile or without point. Maybe I’m being too harsh?

13 02 2009
Adam S.

What a surprise! A lapsed Catholic director decides to do a movie about a book by a lapsed Japanese Catholic on an ancient Spanish priest who becomes an apostate! Can this get any more dispiriting? Why don’t we just have a Liberal Protestant do a history of the Rosary or the Inquisition?
I am loathe to see adaptations of books to the screen. But it could be worse, they could be making it into a Lifetime TV Movie, or a KBS costume drama. Scorsese should pay Endo the ultimate complement and not make his book into a movie at all.
I hate to be bitter, but Hollywood and Catholic go together like Bromo and Seltzer.

13 02 2009
jasmine tea

Wow, I just read this novel yesterday evening!

I’m not really sure what I think of it yet, but I have to agree with Gobbler- I found the end apostasy very dissatisfying. And I mean dissatisfying as in, it felt too contrived, too sudden and unsupported, as well as disappointing to the reader. Rodrigues had plenty of flaws, but he never seemed to develop and overcome any of them.

I am a little bit torn because I find it odd that so many people could die such miserable and courageous deaths and Japan still has not seen a real flowering of the faith.

Yet I do not want to accept Endo’s answer, that Japan is like a swamp that twists and changes everything, including Christianity, so that God is not really God anymore but a syncretism. That has the smack of racial separatism, doesn’t it? ‘Christianity may be fine for the rest of the world but it will never fit on a Japanese body or sink into a Japanese mind unless it is adapted.’ That’s what it seems to say.

Of course in every culture Christianity is outwardly a little different with respect to aesthetics and emphasized teachings/virtues.
And of course, if Catholicism was introduced to an island and then all the priests were chased off and connections with Rome were severed, the faith and liturgy on that island would be bound to exhibit forgetfulness and confusion and incremental transformations. Ultimately it would become unrecognizable or unintelligible.

Endo could not have meant to express all of European Catholicism simply through the figures of Rodrigues and Ferreira, but theirs is the only one he presents. It is largely social and superficial. What Rodrigues has been fascinated by is the image of the triumph and beauty of Christ. He romanticizes Christ’s suffering too much, with the result that when he himself faces real suffering, he finds it unbearable and flounders.

Well, I have a lot of half-formed thoughts on this book and I’m sorry for rambling on and on! As for the movie, I shudder to think of how it’ll turn out.

14 02 2009

Good to see I’m not the only who thinks Japanese Christian’s deserve better than Mr. Endo.

14 02 2009
Adam S.

Tell me. Are there any Japanese translations of GK Chesterton available? Someone needs to flood the market with people like Chesterton, Belloc, Baring, even Neuhaus, r.i.p. If Japanese Catholicism is going to take off, it will need powerful apologists.

15 02 2009
jasmine tea

There are some translations: Father Brown, Manalive, The Man Who Was Thursday, etc., which you can see if you search for Chesterton under his name or チェスタトン (katakana-ized) on But I don’t imagine he’s widely available in bookstores.

I read the Chronicles of Narnia in Japanese when I was a student, which was a good study supplement, but I didn’t feel like the translation did justice to the original. Might be because I’m not a native Japanese speaker. However, it might mean we need better translations all around!

16 02 2009

It was in Japan that I first started reading Chesterton. Was a nice counterweight.

17 02 2009

I keep hearing a lot of Chesterton quotes so I guess its time to pick up a book any suggestions on which one to start with?

17 02 2009

Good point about having good apologists for Japanese to read. I came across an article on the Japanese bishop`s site I think it was that said the Catechism of the Catholic Church wasnt available in Japanese until something like ten years after the rest of the world had theirs. Thats pretty bad! Currently in the book stores the most noticeable books are those featuring the current US president. I guess people like to study English by using his speeches.

18 02 2009

I started off with “Tales of the Longbow” just cause that’s what was available. I doubt you could really go wrong though with something like “The Everlasting Man”

18 02 2009
Michael Yoder

Great comment, Adam S, about a “lapsed Catholic director decides to do a movie about a book by a lapsed Japanese Catholic on an ancient Spanish priest who becomes an apostate”.

A movie about Blessed Peter Kibe or, if they want blood, a movie about the 26 martyrs, what better way to show the Faith and at the same time show what the Japanese faithful did do and can do again. However, movies like that are not very popular with the Hollywood types, too bad a Mel Gibson couldn’t do a movie about the martyrs in the vein of the Passion.

Has Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited been translated into Japanese? Besides the great English Catholics mentioned, they have the French Catholic writers also: Veuillot, Claudel or Georges Bernanos.

18 02 2009
Adam S.

I believe that what is missing from most presentations of Catholicism is that this is a religion that requires both endurance and an education. If Jesus were portrayed in the media as an actual suffering servant, people would be flocking to the churches. Instead, the Jesus that we are given is a gay magician who walks around Galilee doing cheap circus tricks for the masses. Someone said that our concepts of Jesus and Buddha are the same: “Pale-faced men in bed sheets who walked around telling us to be nice to our neighbors and animals”
Lapsed Catholics and Liberal Jews do more to discredit religion than all the Richard Dawkins, Golden Compasses, and Sam Harrisses of the world put together. Roman Catholicism is a vigorous, demanding religion that shatters every other philosophy, culture, economic system, and political arrangement
on the planet. It must not be watered down. The stories of the Japanese martyrs should really be presented IN ALL THEIR BLOODY GLORY.
The convert Salovyov wrote in his “War, Progress, and the End of History: Three Conversations, Including a Short Story of the Anti-Christ” that the Anti-Christ would be a Liberal Christian with a D.D. from Tubingen University (where Pope Benedict taught) who preached infinite tolerance as long as Christians remained silent. Are we fast approaching that day when we will be shut up? Catholics will continue to have these problems until we start getting a more militant cultural presence( and we gut the silliness that plagues the Novus Ordo mass).
What Catholics need is flat-out revisionist history, the things that Protestants have white-washed for way too long. Do media specials on the Inquisition, the “Reformation”, Catholics and Jews, the Church in Asia and Africa, the Catholic Church as not being a “white man’s” house of worship–e.g. St. Quodvultdeus, the subversion and deliberate mistreatment of the faith from the 1970’s onward at the hands of dissident clergy. Push Catholic revisionist literature like :
“Triumph” by H.W. Crocker III, “Religion of Peace?” by Robert Spencer, “Degenerate Moderns” by E. Michael Jones, “How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization” by Thomas Woods, “The Church and the Market” by Thomas Woods, “The Corruption of Christianity” by Ivan Illich, “The Ethics of Redistribution” by Bertrand de Jouvenel, “The Great Heresies” by Hilaire Belloc, “The Everlasting Man” by G.K. Chesterton, “Single Issues” by Joseph Sobran. All these books are by the heavy hitters of Roman Catholicism. People must see that the Church isn’t all people bowing and praying in unison. Catholics can defend the tradition (and Magisterium– that’s a word you don’t here much now, do you?) The obligation should be for every Catholic to know the general truths and express them in particular ways; for the individual tones to reach the same key and harmonize.
Finally, the Church needs to boot out Liberal Catholics like the Kennedies, Bill Maher, Andrew Greeley, and Roger Mahoney. Dr. Johnson was right when he said the first Liberal was the Devil. Who else but a Liberal could believe in tolerance? “I believe that all things are true, but I don’t know what fundamental truths are”
Once those things happen, people will be lined up around the block to join the Church.

19 02 2009
Michael Yoder

I would only add to your list the encyclical letters of the Popes from Gregory XVI to Pius XII. Clearly written and understandable even to someone like me.

The Faith has to be presented unvarnished but in the only way that we the laity can, by the example of our lives. I quoted from a book by a Cistercian monk that I am reading in an earlier blog entry by vee8:

“Your life is true to the teaching, to the example of Jesus Christ, and the ardour of your faith seen in your actions brings others to reflect on the transcendence of the One who inspires that ardour…”

20 02 2009
Adam S.

If any Pope deserves to be read, it is Pope Leo XIII. He foresaw all of this nonsense coming down the pike. I wish that if nothing else people would read the works of Leo XIII, Benedict XVI, and John Paul II.
For good measure Fr. Thomas Dubay’s works “Deep Prayer” and “The Fire Within” should be read by people. He emphasises the mystical aspect of Christianity as obtained through prayer and the experience of Christ in life. He argues, quite keenly, that modern theology is so impotent because it contains absolutely no measure of mysticism. Theologians tried to make Christianity reasonable and only made it rational, which is suicide. Catholicism has for too long tried to downplay the experiential aspect of Christianity since it reeks of Protestantism. However, Protestantism and its altar call are a vulgar parody of the Catholic imagination.
We should take our cue from mystics like St. Teresa of Jesus, John of the Cross, Terese of Lesieux, and even Henry Suso, and pair prayer with contemplation. Catholics need to point out that the transformative power of Christianity only occurs in as much as one prays, and prays with earnestness and intensity– AND PARTAKES OF THE SACRAMENTS. So many Catholics are “Wind-Up Catholics” who do the same thing every time because they think that worship won’t change on account of its stagnant quality. “This is the way we go to church, go to church, go to church. This is the way we go to church early in the morning”
( Bring back little wonders like Finger Rosaries. They really help make meditative prayer accessible. )
Roman Catholicism is the only religion that is mystical and can sustain a mystical tradition. All non-Catholic Christian tradition and all other religions annihilate the believer and the Lord. Such mystics have a very dumpy mystical life. That’s why pagan writings are banal and circular. In fact NON-CHRISTIAN THEOLOGIES ARE NOT EVEN POSSIBLE. They devolve into atheism, pantheism, panentheism, or do not even have a creation, but an emergence from chaos. They try to be mystical, but deflate the mystical into the pragmatic. Protestant mystics like Jacob Boehme hollow out Christianity into something like Alchemy. Orthodox mysticism made Communism possible. Heretics like Matthew Fox distort solid Catholic teaching into cross-eyed Liberalism, because the grace of the mystic is seen as more pure and alive than what is offered in a monastery or mass.
Catholics are the only people who can be mystics and reasonable at the same time. The Church’s seminal figures were both great thinkers and mystics at the same time: Thomas Aquinas, Augustine of Hippo. Paul of Tarsus, Pope Gregory the Great, Pope Leo XIII, Catherine of Siena. We know that the Gospel is absurd, but it is an “absurdity that’s logical and whole” (a la James Joyce) It does not mean that we revel in the irrational, but that we find an interesting tension between deeper first principles and the particularities that grow up around them. After all why should we take the world so seriously when it came from nothing, the heavy lifting being done by Christ himself?
If people are stupid enough to play the mystical game, or want to challenge us on issues of history, we can win. As I repeatedly emphasise, pagan religions fail at the starting gate because of a lack of a Trinitarian model of God. Protestants and Orthodox get further, but peter out on questions of authority. Until Catholics highlight the mysterious aspects of The Faith, the world will rightly dismiss our positions as derivative. The dogmas become mere pragmatism without the authoritative experience of God to appeal to. We must stress that our positions are superior and must be adopted because they provide access to a higher understanding that the rational cannot provide. This is the real meaning of Paul’s comment “The spiritual man can appraise everything, though he himself cannot be appraised”
Endo’s book is typical of everything that is wrong with modern Catholicism: ill-informed, hollowed out by scepticism, narrow in viewpoint, and, worst of all, in bad taste.

21 02 2009

Adam S wrote

What a surprise! A lapsed Catholic director decides to do a movie about a book by a lapsed Japanese Catholic on an ancient Spanish priest who becomes an apostate! Can this get any more dispiriting? Why don’t we just have a Liberal Protestant do a history of the Rosary or the Inquisition?

Pat yourself on the back not just for that comment but for your other points and posts as well. I also agree with you that the martyrs stories should be shown in all their bloody glory. Something honest that doesnt pull punches.

Jasmine wrote

I am a little bit torn because I find it odd that so many people could die such miserable and courageous deaths and Japan still has not seen a real flowering of the faith.

I know what you mean. Rome had plenty of martyrs and then a massive spread of faith. Japan plenty of martyrs as well then…. nothing? I think God hasnt forgotten and their sacrifices will bear fruit in the future. So a delayed reaction but eventually a reaction none the less.

Jasmine also wrote

Yet I do not want to accept Endo’s answer, that Japan is like a swamp that twists and changes everything, including Christianity, so that God is not really God anymore but a syncretism. That has the smack of racial separatism, doesn’t it? ‘Christianity may be fine for the rest of the world but it will never fit on a Japanese body or sink into a Japanese mind unless it is adapted.’ That’s what it seems to say.

I agree as that is the same impression I had. Reading some documents from the Japanese bishops though, in particular some comments by the late cardinal Hamao, they really echo Endo`s words unfortunately.

22 02 2009
Michael Yoder

You will see they call Endo, the Japanese Graham Greene and if you read “The Power and the Glory” you will see why. It is very similar except Greene’s book is set in Mexico during the great persecutions of the 20s and 30s. Additionally, Greene couldn’t leave the Faith but had difficulties with it and you can see that by his living with his mistress instead of his wife

Endo’s use of the “Japanese swamp” is just an excuse, we have simlar excuses in the West but we call it “freedoms” and “rights”. What is it but an excuse when politicians and Catholics say “I personally disagree with abortion but I believe in a person’s right to choose”? It wasn’t a Japanese swamp that propelled Bl. Peter Kibe to walk to Rome and then to be martyred nor the countless others. The sad thing about people like Endo and Greene, who have talent and can be read by people strong in their Faith, is that their work can be used and is used to justify the watering down of the Faith.

Japan is as much a swamp as Europe and America is. It is nothing but an excuse to justify closing the ears and the mind to God.

28 02 2009

I love the discussions in this post!

Very well said!

I suppose God has plans with Japan. It cannot be just coincidence that Japan was the first to taste the evil of human arrogance in the form of the Atomic bombs. Japan has one of the highest suicide rate among industrialized countries; this is not only caused by cultural/historical views on suicide and its correlation with honor- it is caused by the pressure put on by companies on its employees, to work like a non-human, a machine. What is the aim of these companies? Material aim. Who profits? The owners and administrators. Eventually, humans will get tired of this unsustainable pace of human “progress” and not only Japan, but the whole world would realize that neither material nor science can save us but the grace of God and an acceptance of our insignificance in comparison to Him, and His worthiness as a true end towards achieving happiness.

Think about salvation history.

Noah was a drunk.
Jacob tricked his brother.
Moses killed a man.
Matthew was a tax collector.
St. Paul was an avid persecutor of Christianity.
All the other Apostles, save St. John abandoned Christ during his Passion.

Japan, stubborn to not accept this “foreign religion” will follow this pattern. After all, the alternative is cultural masturbation and stagnation.

Let God do what He wills, and we’ll just do what we can in living good Christian lives and praying for Japan, that she may be converted and recieved into the arms of the One, Catholic, Holy, Apostolic Church.

From what I think, the way things are going in Japan, with excess materialism and an overpopulation of Japanese cities, it will somehow fail, this materialistic paradigm. Perhaps then, Christianity will have its opportunity. (This time, it’s not influenced by petty politics.)

29 07 2009
Ssandra Pastrana

I also just read Silence. I was left disturbed by it. So your posts on this blog have helped me come to terms with the book. I have been studying Japanese for six years and have been praying for its conversion for that length too. I also know quite a bit about its culture, yet I disagree with Endo about Japan being a swamp. It wants and needs the Church but they don’t know it yet; Japan also needs missionaries, and lots of them. Don’t despair about Japan since Our Blessed Mother has them under her mantle. Our Lady of Akita is an approved apparition site. Let’s keep praying for it’s conversion.

On the other hand, I don’t have any hope for this movie, perhaps I will also pray that it doesn’t damage our faith.

29 07 2009
Sandra Pastrana

I don’t mean the faith of those in this blog but the faith of the ones that aren’t so sure about their own.

18 02 2010
Joseph O'Leary

I’ll be teaching this novel along with its model, Greene’s The Power and the Glory, from April here in Japan. The priest apostasizes to save his fellow Christians from torture, something no one here has mentioned. If you were to see your child tortured, and could save the child by apostizing, would it be more Christian to apostasize or not?
I think Endo is saying that bumptious triumphalism about dogma is not Christian at all and that the Japanese mud-swamp has human qualities from which dogmatic Christians could learn.

7 03 2010

>If you were to see your child tortured, and could save the child by apostizing, would it be more Christian to apostasize or not?

I think that Joseph raised a very good question, and that the question is crucially related to the nature of Endo’s God, a “powerless” mother who can do nothing but accompany her suffering child to the end, wishing that she could take his place.

This kind of mother image is also closely related to the mud-swamp (womb) image of Japan.

Personally, I am a bit skeptical of the view that Endo’s God is a Christian God, but some of the Christians I talked to insisted that Endo’s version of Christianity was indeed an authentic Christianity.

It seems to me that one crucial difference between Greene’s whiskey priest (The Power and the Glory) and Endo’s Rodrigues is that the whiskey priest believes in the paternal Christian God to the end, whereas Rodrigues abandons the paternal image of God and replaces it with a maternal one in the end.

In other words, Greene is monotheistic and anthropocentric, whereas Endo is pantheistic and non-anthropocentric.

As Endo correctly points out, Japan’s spiritual climate is fundamentally pantheistic and non-anthropocentric, and thus, that climate diametrically opposes the Judeo-Christian monotheistic sensibility. This, it seems to me, is one major reason that orthodox Christianity is having difficulty in prospering in that country.

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