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"The price for your glory is their suffering."
"I pray but I am lost. Am I just praying to silence?"
Father Sebastião Rodrigues
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Silence is a 2016 Historical Fiction film directed by Martin Scorsese, who also co-wrote the screenplay with Jay Cocks, (his longtime collaborator.

It is based on the 1966 Japanese language novel (沈黙 Chinmoku) of the same name by Shusaku Endo. Starring Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver, Liam Neeson, Tadanobu Asano, Issey Ogata, Yōsuke Kubozuka and Ciarán Hinds. It is the novel's second screen adaptation after Masahiro Shinoda's version in 1971.

In the 17th century, the Jesuit mission in Japan is facing severe setbacks from the Shogunate who is not only persecuting Japanese Christians but making them apostatize. One of their priests, Father Ferreira (Liam Neeson), a respected member of the clergy, has already apostatized and is currently helping the government persecute Christians. In response to this shocking turn of events, two young Portuguese Jesuit priests, Father Sebastião Rodrigues (Garfield) and Father Francisco Garrupe (Driver) are dispatched to learn what happened to Ferreira and to continue the mission of preaching Christ's message to the persecuted Japanese Christians.

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The film was released on 23 December 2016. The trailer can be seen here.


Tropes:

  • Actually, I Am Him: When confronting the authorities, Rodrigues demands to be brought to the inquisitor. After some laughs, Inoue himself explains to Rodrigues that the inquisitor has been there the whole time.
  • Adaptation Expansion: The 2016 film adds a few flashbacks to show Ferreira's struggle and crucially adds a small addition to the ending that clarifies Rodrigues' fate.
  • Advertised Extra: Liam Neeson appears prominently on the film's posters, but he's just in shortly at the beginning and towards the end. Tadanobu Asano and Issey Ogata have more screentime than him, but didn't get top billing.
  • Affably Evil: Inquisitor Inoue is a kindly old grandfather, apologetic and friendly, even manifesting Sympathy for the Hero. Fr. Rodrigues even notes that his evil has a beauty to him. Of course, Inoue doesn't see himself as evil, merely protecting Japan from foreign influence.
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  • Artistic License – History: Ferreira talks about writing a book uncovering Christianity as built on lies. The actual book attributed to him is of dubious historicity.
  • Artistic License – Religion: The film has Ferreira claim that the Japanese can't imagine anything beyond nature, thus they mistook "the Son" for the sun. Now, not only does this homonym make no sense in both Portuguese and Japanese where the words for this use entirely different sounds, but Buddhism and Shinto both definitely were based on notions of the supernatural.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: In the end, Inquisitor Inoue manages to break Rodrigues and cause him to apostatize in order to save others from a horrible death. It's all but stated that Rodrigues secretly held onto his faith for the rest of his life and the Hidden Christians avoid more persecution, but Inoue ends up getting everything he wants. The persecutions' goal is achieved in that Christianity does not become a major religion in Japan, albeit neither is it completely uprooted either, as a small, and in Inoue's view, harmless version will survive, albeit one that doesn't resemble the European idea of Christianity.
  • Beard of Sorrow: Inverted with shades of Expository Hairstyle Change. Once Rodrigues has crossed the Despair Event Horizon, we see him for the first time clean-shaven, having lost his European-style beard as part of his complete severing from his native land.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Rodrigues saves the Christians being tortured by Inoue, but he is forced to apostatize and work as a Japanese stooge for the rest of his life just like Ferreira did. However, although both of them go down in history as fallen priests who became Japanese turncoats, both are heavily implied to have kept their faith the rest of their life in secret and by doing what they were told to do, Inoue basically promised that the Hidden Christians would avoid more persecution since he knew they would remain a minority, and even if the mission failed thoroughly, Christ's message did reach and find meaning among people in an entirely different culture and background, albeit not a meaning that the mission and the church intended.
  • Break the Believer: What the Japanese authorities try to do. They want to force priests to apostatize, and succeeded in doing this to Fr. Ferreira. It's averted with Rodrigues. He apostatizes in the end, but he does so to prevent other Christians from suffering, and he still keeps his belief privately, as does Kichijiro, who repeatedly apostatizes but still believes, and still considers Rodrigues his priest and confessor even after he has apostatized.
  • Broken Pedestal: Rodrigues doesn't want to believe that his mentor Fr. Ferreira apostatized, and is horrified to find out it's true. This helps lead him to apostatize himself.
  • Christianity Is Catholic: The main protagonists are Jesuits (a Catholic order) and native from Portugal (a Catholic majority country), so it makes sense Catholicism is being proselytized in Japan. There is one Dutch character in the movie though his denomination goes unmentioned, it's presumed that belongs to Reformed Dutch Church. This trope becomes a plot point when Rodrigues points out to Ferreira the hidden converts still practice Christianity, but Ferreira states it isn't the same thing because it's not like Catholicism, so he loses all faith.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: A literal example. The Japanese authorities and functionaries take no real pleasure in torturing Christians, and merely see it as Dirty Business or Just Following Orders. That doesn't prevent them from dispassionately submitting Christians to boiling water, water torture, prolonging their agony and suffering until they die, and the Pit.
  • Crisis of Faith: Rodrigues undergoes an extreme one over the course of the film after seeing how much the Christians in Japan are suffering for the faith. Eventually, he apostasizes to save others, and it seems he has lost his faith completely. However, the ending reveals he privately remained a Christian to his death.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: The people who help the two priests upon their arrival in Japan are Japanese converts. Later on, they are caught and crucified on a sea shore where the tide washes over them and drowns them slowly. Others suffer death in equally terrible ways: being burned alive, being drowned, being beheaded, and being hanged upside down.
  • Culture Chop Suey:
    • It's an American movie in English directed by an Italian-American, adapting a Japanese language novel with Portuguese priests as protagonists portrayed by British, American and Northern Irish actors. Of course, both director and writer are Catholics.
    • Discussed Trope during the meeting of Rodrigues and Ferreira, the former thought that the Japanese converts remained Christians but the former retorted that 1. Japanese's worship is based on natural surroundings that created translation or cultural conception issues, 2. Deus was a case of mistakingly assuming the god as a different deity. As a result, their religion became more of a jumble of Japanese tradition with Christian jargons and rituals.
  • Deconstruction: Both the novel and film scrutinize the idea of Christian missionary activity, martyrdom, apostasy and the idea of faith.
    • Japanese authorities see missionary work as essentially political in nature, paving the way for future European inroads. Rodrigues on the other hand sees it as religious, performing Christ's duty of spreading his message which is the universal truth for people of all cultures. The apostate Ferreira tells him that the Christianity practiced by the Japanese is not quite the same as of Europeans, and even Inoue notes that the authorities won't persecute Hidden Christians because their approach to Christianity is so drastically different from Europe that it won't be a political threat. Rodrigues, by receiving Kichijiro's confession even after apostatizing, comes around to accepting that Christianity in any form is valid and authentic.
    • Both Fr. Rodrigues and Fr. Garrupe are raised to believe that martyrdom is the highest honor a Christian man of faith can aspire to, but it's a glory that priests and representatives of the faith are intended to undergo on behalf of others. In Japan, Rodrigues and Garrupe are forced to confront the fact that their flock is suffering and sacrificing and becoming martyrs on their behalf, and Rodrigues cannot bear seeing people suffer on his account.
    • The idea of apostasy, whether someone who breaks down in torture and abjures his faith, is truly beyond salvation is a major theme of both the book and the film. Kichijiro repeatedly breaks his faith and seeks forgiveness and confession but he does so even after Rodrigues has apostatized, meaning he still sees and accepts Rodrigues as his priest even when the former is no longer one and Rodrigues remains a Christian privately even when to the world and to his fellow man he has ceased being one.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Rodrigues enters this after being forced to step on the fumi-e to end his disciples' suffering.
  • Determinator: Father Rodrigues is determined to not apostatize even though Shogunate authorities force him to.
  • Dirty Coward: A rare sympathetic example: Kichijiro repeatedly renounces his faith to save himself and betrays Rodrigues for money, yet always comes sobbing back to Rodrigues begging for forgiveness.
  • Empty Shell: Rodrigues is this in the film's epilogue, though it might be subverted when its revealed at the end that he kept his faith anyway after being apostatized.
  • Evil Jesuit: The film averts this stereotype, with the Jesuits being portrayed as noble missionaries who endure horrifying torture for their faith at the hands of the Japanese authorities.
  • Fallen Hero: Fr. Ferreira is this for the Church. Formerly a respected member of the Jesuits, he not only broke under torture and abjured his faith, but became a collaborator for the authorities to persecute other Christians. By the end of the film, Rodrigues has become one, as the Dutch trader in the epilogue confirms, a European who became a stooge for the Japanese, an apostate who has to all outward appearances gone native. To Kichijiro however Rodrigues is still the last priest even after his apostasy.
  • Forgiveness: Many characters debate whether God or Jesus could forgive even those who apostatize and abjure their faith, the ones who step on his graven images and abuse the image of the Virgin Mary. Fr. Rodrigues believes that Christ told him to step on the fumi-e and that at the end, Christ told him that he was not silent, but sharing in his sufferings.
    Fr. Rodrigues: "Christ did not die for the good and beautiful. It is easy enough to die for the good and beautiful. The hard thing is to die for the miserable and corrupt — this is the realization that came home to me acutely at that time."
  • Glory Seeker: Rodrigues is accused by his Japanese interrogators of this. They accuse him of using missionary work and seeking martyrdom as an attempt by him to be a hero to the Church at the expense of the suffering he inflicts on other people.
  • The Greatest Story Never Told: At the end of the film, a Dutch trader states that all of Europe, the world and history will remember Rodrigues as an apostate sellout who abjured God forever, and that he died receiving a Buddhist burial, but the final image shows that he kept a crucifix in his palm, revealing that he still kept his faith privately till the end. The Dutch trader himself notes that only God can judge Rodrigues for his actions.
  • Grey and Gray Morality: The Jesuits and Japanese are not portrayed as simply good and evil, which both sides had arguments over the morality, the former claiming Good Shepherd but with issues with local culture while the latter claiming to be Well-Intentioned Extremist keeping colonialism at bay.
  • Have You Seen My God?: Rodrigues wonders throughout the film why God is silent when so many innocent people are suffering on account of their faith in him. He even wonders if God exists. At the end when he is about to apostatize he hears a voice that he believes is Jesus, which tells him to trample on the fumi-e, and the same voice tells him that he was never silent, but rather suffering with Rodrigues and suffering with him everyday in his period of exile. The film leaves it ambiguous if this is Rodrigues' own rationalization or truly why God is silent. In the end, Rodrigues still holds on to his faith even after abjuring and disgracing himself in the eyes of the Church and in Europe.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Fr. Rodrigues wants to do this for his flock, but the Japanese authorities refuse to let him. His real sacrifice is renouncing his faith, disgracing himself forever in the eyes of the Church and spending his life as a stooge for the government to prevent illegal Christian objects from entering Japan so that further persecution is not visited on more Japanese Christians.
  • Historical-Domain Character: Inoue, the inquisitor in charge of persecuting Christians, and Fr. Ferreira, are actual historical figures.
  • Hourglass Plot: Fr. Rodrigues and Kichijiro. At the start the former is a brave and courageous priest and the latter is a Dirty Coward penitent who betrays him repeatedly. Rodrigues frequently feels that his duty to absolve Kichijiro repeatedly borders on insane, yet in the end after he has apostatized, it is Kichijiro who restores Rodrigues' (now hidden) faith by asking for confession, and on account of the fact that he's more inept at hiding crucifixes than the apostate Rodrigues, he ends up attaining martyrdom while Rodrigues dies as an apostate sellout. In effect, the seeming Judas becomes a Christ-figure while the man who starts out wanting to be Jesus, and resembling him, ends up becoming Judas.
  • Internal Homage:
  • Illegal Religion: Christianity is outlawed and repressed in feudal Japan, and those who still believe have to practice their faith in secret. Indeed, until the end of the Sakoku period and the beginning of the Meiji Restoration, Christianity survived in a small community of hidden Christians. At the end, Inquisitor Inoue admits to Rodrigues that he knows about the Hidden Christians but he won't persecute them since their beliefs are a minority, unlikely to spread and no threat to the state, with the implication being that so long as Rodrigues continues to abjure Christianity, the Hidden Christians will be free to practice their beliefs.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Father Garrupe openly dislikes Japan and refuses to encourage any apostatizing for the sake of others. However, Garrupe nobly begs to be killed instead of the Christian martyrs and tries valiantly to save them. Rodrigues watches Garrupe die in front of his eyes, and the Japanese commend Garrupe as more honorable than Rodrigues.
  • Jidai Geki: The film is set at the beginning of the Edo period, in the 17th century.
  • Killed Offscreen: In the epilogue, it is heavily implied that Kichijiro is met with this fate after being found with a Cross in his possession during a routine stepping of the Fumi-e. As Father Martin notes, this means that Kichijiro would finally become a Christian martyr, while Rodrigues who succeeded to hide his Christian cross, will be remembered as the apostate, an ironic reversal from their Judas-Jesus interactions in the first section.
  • Laughing Mad: Rodrigues has a couple of bouts of this, most notably when he's thirsty and desperate for water. When he finally finds it, he sees not his reflection but one of Jesus Christ in the water. Cue him laughing like The Joker. Whether this was a sign from God or his own delusions is left ambiguous.
  • Looks Like Jesus: Fr. Rodrigues' hair and beard grows quite long and at one point he, obsessed with the image of Jesus, sees the resemblance in a pool of water and starts laughing. It's crucial to the plot because it feeds into his vanity of wanting to be Jesus. In the end he becomes Judas, an apostate who abjures his Lord but forever yearns for forgiveness and salvation that he can never be certain of receiving, Dying Alone without absolution yet seeking salvation nonetheless.
  • Lovable Traitor: Kichijiro repeatedly betrays and apostatizes his faith under torture and constantly seeks absolution from Fr. Rodrigues. In the end Rodrigues and Kichijiro become friends, and Rodrigues is moved when Kichijiro asks him for confession even after the priest has apostatized, because in his eyes, Rodrigues is still the "last priest".
  • Luxury Prison Suite: After being captured and brought to Nagasaki, Rodrigues notes that Inquisitor Inoue keeps him fed regularly and in good surroundings so as to fatten him up to make him break before the later torture. After he apostatizes, Rodrigues becomes an official who spends the rest of his life in constant surveillance, despite living outwardly like a Japanese noble. If he chooses to defy their demands, more persecution will be visited on the remaining Christians.
  • Martyrdom Culture: Desconstructed in the film with the Jesuit priests who are tortured by the Japanese into renouncing their faith. Since they were raised to believe martyrdom is the highest honor a Christian can aspire to, they are prepared to die rather than commit apostasy. However, martyrdom is intended to be done on behalf of others and the priests have to confront the fact their flock is hugely suffering when they are martyring themselves on their shepard's behalf, something they cannot bear.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Rodrigues hears a voice when he is stepping on the fumi-e, he believes its the voice of Jesus who tells him that he is not silent, but rather is suffering with him and all his beloved children when they are facing horror. Given that Rodrigues is shown having Sanity Slippage and being Laughing Mad at various times, this is perhaps a delusion or coping mechanism, or his own rationalization for God's silence so as to maintain faith privately even after his persecution.
  • The Mentor: Fr. Ferreira was this to the Rodrigues and Garrupe, which is why they follow him into Japan since they want to know what happened to make him abjure his faith. The Japanese authorities use an apostatized Ferreira to force Rodrigues to apostatize.
  • Motive Decay: Fr. Rodrigues and Fr. Garupe come to Japan seeking news of Fr. Ferreira, but along the way they work with the underground ministry of hidden Christians and spend their time in hiding, scrounging for news of their mentor. Rodrigues' own motivations are repeatedly questioned by himself and the authorities. Does he want to find about Ferreira, revive Christianity in Japan or seek martyrdom?
  • Mystery Cult: The Hidden Christians create a version of this underground. In the absence of an official church, they appointed village elders to perform the role and function of priests. The elder is the Jiisama who oversees baptism and other rites. Publicly they perform Buddhist rites and rituals but privately and among each other they remain Christians. Rodrigues' narration notes that this makes the underground Japanese Christians analogous to the time when Christians were practicing their cult underground in the catacombs of The Roman Empire, although Ferreira insists that their version of Christianity is different from Europe's and in his view not really Christian, but Rodrigues disagrees.
  • Nothing Personal: Inquisitor Inoue tells Rodrigues that he and other authorities don't have anything against the Christian religion on a personal level, and Inoue also tells him that unlike his fellow noblemen, he doesn't see Christianity as a curse. Indeed, he's content to allow the Hidden Christians to remain in hiding, and out of sight, stopping short of eradicating the religion entirely, because all he wanted was to end it as a political threat.
  • Resistance Is Futile: The point Inoue, and the Interpreter, makes through and through.
  • Right in Front of Me: Inoue appears several times before being introduced by name. Rodrigues, under the impression that the Inquisitor must be some hulking warlord, makes a Bad Ass Boast about appearing in front of him... only for everyone to burst out laughing, as Inoue is right in front of him. He's really a rather frail, effeminate old man.
  • Room 101: The Pit is described as this. It's a torture so terrible that it broke Fr. Ferreira. It involves suspending a man upside down in a hole filled with excrement, with a vein in his temple cut so that blood can vent rather than rush to the head and kill the man. This keeps a man alive while suspended in endless agony. Rodrigues expects this torture to be visited on him, but instead it happens to five fellow Christians instead, and Rodrigues abjures his faith to prevent them from suffering more on his account.
  • Sadistic Choice: The shogunate forces a dispassionate one on the Jesuit monks: renounce their faith or witness their own flock suffer and die.
  • Scenery Gorn: Rodrigues reaches Ferreira's last known location only to discover the village is completely destroyed, ravaged by the elements and completely overrun by stray cats. Whatever happened there isn't clear, but it wasn't pretty. By and large, the movie juxtaposes top-notch landscape Scenery Porn with its scenes of violence and historical poverty.
  • Secret Keeper: Rodrigues' wife puts a ceremonial katana in her husband's coffin in the end. It's implied that she also secretly put his crucifix inside of his vest, which he had hidden all of those years.
  • Senseless Sacrifice: Garupe drowns trying to reach some converts who are being executed, and they're all killed regardless.
  • Tragic Keepsake: The Jiisama Mokichi presents Rodrigues with a small crucifix before surrendering himself to the authorities as a hostage to spare trouble visited on Tomogi village. Rodrigues keeps that crucifix with him through his imprisonment in Nagasaki, and as the epilogue reveals, for the rest of his life, even when he served as an official charged with banning and preventing Christian images from entering Japan. The crucifix is revealed to be inside his vest in the basket coffin for his Buddhist burial.
  • Translation Convention: English stands in for Portuguese. The original novel is in Japanese but has Portuguese priests as protagonists and similarly substituted Japanese with interspersed Latin-Portuguese words for the language of the characters. The only problem is when Fr. Ferreira says the Japanese mistook "Son" for "Sun", but that's only a homonym in English.
    • Also done to a limited extent with the Japanese characters. While some of them (namely the samurai officials and the Christian leaders) have prior backgrounds that allowed them to learn Portuguese, others (like low-ranking guards and peasants) are shown communicating with Rodrigues despite the unlikelihood of them understanding the language.
  • Truer to the Text: Scorsese's 2016 film is far more faithful to the novel than the 1971 Shinoda adaptation, keeping the ending of the novel and the Appendix and Where Are They Now Epilogue, and transcribing almost all the scenes and exposition from the text to the screen.
  • Visual Pun: A great big shining one as the priests approach the Land of the Rising Sun.
  • Vow of Celibacy: As you'd expect from a film whose lead characters are Catholic priests. The associated temptation isn't a strong source of tension in-universe, but Ferreira is rumored to have taken a local wife as part of his fall from grace. This is true. Rodrigues is compelled to take a wife as part of his forced assimilation into secular life, though it's not clear if the relationship ever becomes sexual.
  • Wham Line:
    Jesus: "Come ahead now. It's alright."
  • What You Are in the Dark:
    • Kichijiro notes that if he had been born in an earlier time and died when Christians weren't persecuted by the authorities, he would have died a good Christian but because he was born in a time when it was an Illegal Religion and he frequently broke under torture and apostatized his faith, he's forced to confront that he's a Dirty Coward and constantly laments why God made him weak rather than strong.
    • Rodrigues at the end, having apostatized and been forced by authorities to become a sell-out and servant who enforces their policies, has to spend the rest of his life denying Christianity and abjuring his faith lest a fresh wave of persecutions come to bear on the Hidden Christians. Privately he still believes in God, and believes that he apostatized at God's command, but to the rest of the world, he is disgraced and damned in the eyes of God.
  • What Would X Do?: Ferreira states that even Jesus would have apostatized rather than let innocent people suffer on his behalf. Rodrigues hears a voice from Jesus, that tells him that he can trample on his image.
  • Why Did You Make Me Hit You?: The Japanese officials argue that they don't want to persecute people at all, but that the Jesuits have forced them to do so.
  • "World of Cardboard" Speech: Rodrigues at the end.
    Fr. Rodrigues: "Even if God were silent, everything I have done, everything I have said would have spoken for him".
  • You Can't Go Home Again: Neither Ferreira or Rodrigues can go back to Europe after they have apostatized.

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