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Saturday, 3 October 2015

Endo & Scorsese: Approaching Silence

'Shusaku Endo is celebrated as one of Japan's great modern novelists, often described as "Japan's Graham Greene," and Silence is considered by many Japanese and Western literary critics to be his masterpiece.

Approaching Silence is both a celebration of this award-winning novel as well as a significant contribution to the growing body of work on literature and religion. It features eminent scholars writing from Christian, Buddhist, literary, and historical perspectives, taking up, for example, the uneasy alliance between faith and doubt; the complexities of discipleship and martyrdom; the face of Christ; and, the bodhisattva ideal as well as the nature of suffering. It also frames Silence through a wider lens, comparing it to Endo's other works as well as to the fiction of other authors.'

In his essay for Approaching Silence Martin Scorsese writes: 'Endo’s novel confronts the mystery of Christian faith, and by extension the mystery of faith itself. Rodrigues learns, one painful step at a time, that God’s love is more mysterious than he knows, that He leaves much more to the ways of men than we realize, and that He is always present … even in His silence.'

'Adapting Silence ... has been a passion project percolating in Martin Scorsese’s mind for decades. For a while, it looked like the film would never get done. But with the release of a full cast, a first still, and a brand new essay and storyboard courtesy of The Film Stage, [Matthew Becklo says,] Scorsese’s Silence is well on its way to its scheduled 2016 release.

In an early forward for the novel, Scorsese wrote:

“How do you tell the story of Christian faith? The difficulty, the crisis, of believing? How do you describe the struggle? There have been many great twentieth century novelists drawn to the subject – Graham Greene, of course, and Fran├žois Mauriac, Georges Bernanos… [Endo] understood the conflict of faith, the necessity of belief fighting the voice of experience. The voice that always urges the faithful – the questioning faithful – to adapt their beliefs to the world they inhabit, their culture… That’s a paradox, and it can be an extremely painful one: on the face of it, believing and questioning are antithetical. Yet I believe that they go hand in hand. One nourishes the other. Questioning may lead to great loneliness, but if it co-exists with faith – true faith, abiding faith – it can end in the most joyful sense of communion. It’s this painful, paradoxical passage – from certainty to doubt to loneliness to communion – that Endo understands so well, and renders so clearly, carefully and beautifully in Silence.”

Similarly, as David Ehrenstein writes, Scorsese's The Last Temptation of Christ, released in 1988 and adapted from Nikos Kazantzakis’s imaginative retelling of the life of Christ, takes as its subject this same struggle between the spirit and the flesh - 'the “temptation” is simply that to be only human—to forgo divinity and martyrdom in exchange for a normal life':

'Kazantzakis’s novel had long fascinated Scorsese, who saw in it an opportunity to create a religious epic like no other, a “Passion project” if ever there was one. Written in 1951, The Last Temptation of Christ, according to its author, shows that the “part of Christ’s nature which was profoundly human helps us to understand and love him and to pursue his passion as though it were our own. If he had not within him this warm human element, he would never be able to touch our hearts with such assurance and tenderness; he would not be able to become a model for our lives.” And so instead of dealing with Christ as a remote icon, Scorsese’s film would explore what it meant for him to be fully human as well as divine—as the Gospels say it was Jesus’ unique condition to be.'

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