Justin’s Japan: Martin Scorsese’s ‘Silence’

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By JQ magazine editor Justin Tedaldi (CIR Kobe-shi, 2001-02) for Shukan NY Seikatsu. Justin has written about Japanese arts and entertainment for JETAA since 2005. For more of his articles, click here.

While riding the bullet train through Japan in 1989, the New York filmmaker Martin Scorsese was reading “Silence,” the award-winning 1966 Japanese historical novel by Shusaku Endo abut a Jesuit missionary’s persecution in 17th century Japan at a time when Christianity was practiced in secret following a national prohibition that lasted well into the mid-19th century.

Drawing from some of Endo’s personal experiences as a Japanese Catholic (as well as the director’s own religious upbringing as an altar boy in Little Italy), the film stars Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver, Liam Neeson, Issei Ogata, and Tadanobu Asano. The film has drawn comparisons to Scorsese’s own 1988 film “The Last Temptation of Christ” with its themes of faith and perseverance, and has endured a decades-in-the-making journey to the big screen.

In a 2011 interview with “Deadline,” Scorsese said ahead of filming, “‘Silence’ is just something that I’m drawn to in that way. It’s been an obsession, it has to be done…it’s a strong, wonderful true story, a thriller in a way, but it deals with those questions.”

Released on Dec. 26, reviews have been glowing (reflecting an 87% Certified Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes at press time), with the site calling it a “thoughtful, emotionally resonant look at spirituality and human nature that stands among the director’s finest works.”

“Silence” is now playing at select theaters in Manhattan, Brooklyn and New Jersey. For more information, visit www.silencemovie.com.