Silence—A Christian’s Contemplative Guide
Silence offers Christians a moment of confession and meditation on faith.
On a Friday January 6th, I walked out of a lightly filled theater at 12 PM. I thought, “I am in no way fit to write this review.” It was Epiphany, a day on the Christian calendar celebrating God revealing himself. I had just seen Silence. My emotional ties to the story were so great. “How do I critique a film concerning a concept that I am so overwhelmed by?” In time, I suppose, I’ll be able to judge the quality of cinematography, plot-flow and creative strokes toward immaterial concepts. But for now, I’m left to sit in the contemplative experience that the film evoked. This article is intended to act as a contemplative guide—points for viewing and reflecting on Silence.
1. A Moment of Meditation
The 2 hour and 40 minute narrative inhales and exhales at a slow, steady rate. The quiet film shifts from sounds of rolling seas and chirping insects to sustained intervals of silence. Director Martin Scorsese intentionally avoided the use of any music. Film scores subconsciously dictate what the viewer ought to feel about a given person or scene. Silence leaves the interpretation up to the viewers. This directional gap forces the audience into ambiguity. It leaves gray spaces eager for personal interpretation.
2. Considering Faith and Confession
Faith is not the unfaltering ability to overcome temptation or the ability bear up good deeds under trial. Silence suggests that faith is that sincere ability to return. It is belief and commitment amidst shame and failure. Daily, many Christians around the world echo the prayer of confession—through morning and evening prayer. Confession often feels like meditation on failure, but the participation in that prayer is indeed an act of humble faith. This film proposes a unique relationship between faith and confession.
3. The Voice of God
Makoto Fujimura, visual artist and author of Silence and Beauty, stated that “the film is not about the silence of God, but God’s voice in silence.” Joseph Neuner once told Mother Teresa, “…that the feeling of the presence of Jesus is not the only proof of His being there, that her very craving for God was a ‘sure sign’ of his ‘hidden presence’ in her life…”(1)
Scorsese’ dedication to Silence arose from his personal connection and devotion to the narrative. Shasuko Endo’s novel, Silence, moved both Scorsese and Fujimora at a young age. Scorsese knew that one day he wanted to present the narrative on screen. He and the superb cast, including, Liam Neeson, Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver and Yôsuke Kubozuka—along with the crew—wholly committed to the film. They began shooting before the film was picked up by a production and distribution company. This means the began without the assurance that they would be paid. Their dedication and faith for this project is felt in every scene.
Credits: (1) David Van Biema, Mother Teresa, Time Magazine 2016. (2) Scorsese interview: http://collider.com/martin-scorsese-silence-video-interview/#images – k.pastore