Silence (1971 film)

Last updated

Original Japanese poster
Directed by Masahiro Shinoda
Written by Shūsaku Endō
Masahiro Shinoda
Produced byKiyoshi Iwashita
Kinshirô Kuzui
Tadasuke Ômura
CinematographyKazuo Miyagawa
Edited byShikako Takahashi
Music by Tōru Takemitsu
Distributed by Toho
Release date
  • 1971 (1971)
Running time
129 minutes

Silence (Japanese : 沈黙, translit.  Chinmoku) is a 1971 Japanese historical drama film directed by Masahiro Shinoda, based on the novel of the same name by Shūsaku Endō. [1] It stars Tetsurō Tamba, Mako, Eiji Okada, and Shima Iwashita alongside English actors David Lampson and Don Kenny. Endo co-wrote the screenplay with Masahiro Shinoda. Most of the film's dialogue is in Japanese, though it has short sequences in English. It was entered Un Certain Regard into the 1972 Cannes Film Festival, and won four Mainichi Film Awards including Best Film and Best Director. [2]


The film's themes analyze the conflict of human nature versus divine requirements and their compatibility, life's purpose, the interplay of emotional needs, suffering, and contentment. The storytelling device the film uses is circumstantial and depicts the struggles of life, allegorical presentation, and Christian theology. It is the first of two film adaptations of the novel, succeeded by a 2016 film of the same name directed by Martin Scorsese.


In the 17th century, two Portuguese Jesuit priests, Rodrigo and Garrpe, travel to Japan to proselytize, where Christianity is officially banned. They also search for their mentor, Ferreira, with whom they lost contact five years prior and presume is imprisoned. Rodrigo is patronizing and Garrpe is cautious. The two priests are overwhelmed with the welcome they receive in Japan, but occasionally wish for some comfort food from home.

They travel to the village of Kichijiro, the man who smuggled them into Japan from China. Returning, they hear the officials have arrived to capture the priests. After many of the hidden believers are taken prisoner, the two priests decide to leave but they become separated. Kichijiro finds Rodrigo and joins with him; he confesses to Rodrigo he is a weak person and his family was slaughtered for being Christians. Nagasaki Magistrate Inoue's men capture Rodrigo and throw 300 pieces of silver at Kichijiro (reminiscent of Judas Iscariot). He later gives away the money to a prostitute for emotional support.

Inoue's men imprison Rodrigo and put him on trial. Later, he and other prisoners in the cell are shown Inoue's men punishing a Christian Samurai family where in the end the wife Kiku recants her faith and her husband is dragged away to be executed. Kichijiro, who is troubled, sneaks into the holding cell, asks Rodrigo to forgive him. He says he betrayed Rodrigo because everyone shamed him for recanting his faith and despises anyone who reminds him of it.

Inoue, with the interpreter, invites Rodrigo for a talk in private. Inoue says the Church is unwanted in Japan. He compares Christianity to a concubine who makes trouble for a man's conscience (Japan). Rodrigo says truth of the Church is universal and as the happiness between a man and woman is disturbed, the State disturbs the Church through persecution for not becoming fruitful. Each accuses the other of being ignorant of the other side of the subject. Inoue concludes that he doesn't think Christianity is bad, but he has to forbid it.

Later Rodrigo is taken to the seaside and sees Garrpe, who has been taken prisoner, along with his Japanese companions. The interpreter tells Rodrigo that Magistrate Inoue wants Rodrigo to witness Garrpe apostatizing his faith and, if he doesn't, all the hidden Christian farmers will be immediately hunted down. While Garrpe's companions are drowned one by one, Garrpe unties his bonds in an attempt to save them. He swims near to the boat where his companions were thrown into the sea, but the soldiers dissuade him with spears which leads to his death. Later, Rodrigo is taken to a Buddhist temple to visit Lord Chuan Sawano. Sawano turns out to be Ferreira, who has apostatized and is working under Inoue as an astronomy scholar, also helping to expose errors and inconsistencies in Bible and Christian teachings. Rodrigo is upset by this revelation; nonetheless, Sawano asks Rodrigo to renounce his faith. Rodrigo rejects the idea. Sawano says he preached in Japan for 20 years, and he knows this is not a land where Christianity can be rooted but a terrifying swamp where seedlings can rot and die and the inculturation of Christianity is the worst. Rodrigo rejects all these claims and censures him by saying that this wouldn't be the attitude of St. Francis Xavier.

The interpreter takes Rodrigo back to his prison, and he is hung upside down in a pit with a small incision at the back of his ear for the blood to drip slowly. After a short time in a lot of pain, he is taken back to the prison, where he meets Sawano again. When Rodrigo asks about the snoring sound he hears, Sawano says it's not snoring but the whimpering of three Christian believers who have been hung upside down for the past six hours. Sawano says he was in the same cell where Rodrigo is now and was hung for two days and there were five men who were hung in the pit, and he can still hear their voices. Sawano tells the real reason he renounced his faith was not because of the torture, but the absence of God in others' suffering. Rodrigo replies those who are in suffering will receive eternal happiness for their pain. [3] Sawano tells him not to deceive himself, and says if Rodrigo renounces his faith now for the sake of love [4] as Christ would do, those men hung in the pits will be freed and receive immediate care.

The interpreter comes with a fumi-e and encourages Rodrigo to step on it, as it's a mere formality. Sawano supports him by relating it to be a supreme act of love that Christ would have done for his fellow men and chants silently. Rodrigo steps on the fumi-e and a rooster crows twice (reminiscent of Saint Peter's denial). Later, a complacent Rodrigo is shown helping Nagasaki magistrates to identify forbidden Christian objects. Rodrigo is asked to comment on a cup and he says it's not a chalice because the stem would have been longer. The magistrates are impressed with it and give him Kiku as his wife; from that day forward, he is given her dead husband's name Sanemon Okada as Ferreira was given the title of Lord Sawano. [5] A happy Kichijiro is shown sweeping the surroundings.


Related Research Articles

Pope Marcellinus Pope and bishop of Rome (tenure 296-304)

Pope Marcellinus was the bishop of Rome from 30 June 296 to his death in 304. He may have renounced Christianity during Emperor Diocletian's persecution of Christians before repenting afterwards, which would explain why he is omitted from lists of martyrs. He is today venerated as a saint in Catholic and Serbian Orthodox Church.

Shūsaku Endō Japanese writer

Shūsaku Endō was a Japanese author who wrote from the rare perspective of a Japanese Catholic. Together with Junnosuke Yoshiyuki, Shōtarō Yasuoka, Junzo Shono, Hiroyuki Agawa, Ayako Sono, and Shumon Miura, Endō is categorized as part of the "Third Generation".

Tetsurō Tamba Japanese actor

Tetsurō Tamba was a Japanese actor with a career spanning five decades. He is best known in the West for his role in the 1967 James Bond film You Only Live Twice as Tiger Tanaka.

Masahiro Shinoda is a retired Japanese film director, originally associated with the Shochiku Studio, who came to prominence as part of the Japanese New Wave in the 1960s.

<i>An Autumn Afternoon</i> 1962 film

An Autumn Afternoon is a 1962 Japanese drama film directed by Yasujirō Ozu for Shochiku Films. It stars Ozu regular Chishū Ryū as the patriarch of the Hirayama family who eventually realises that he has a duty to arrange a marriage for his daughter Michiko. It was Ozu's last film; he died the following year on the day he turned 60.

Meitei Christians

The Meitei Christians are a Christian movement based in Manipur, in India.

Eiji Okada Japanese actor

Eiji Okada was a Japanese film actor from Chōshi, Chiba. Okada served in the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II and was a miner and traveling salesman before becoming an actor.

Christianity in Japan Overview of the role of Christianity in Japan

Christianity in Japan is among the nation's minority religions in terms of individuals who state an explicit affiliation or faith. Between less than 1 percent and 1.5% of the population claims Christian belief or affiliation. However, Christianity has played a crucial role in the shaping of Japanese identity and the relationship between religion and the state for more than four centuries. Most large Christian denominations, including Roman Catholicism, Protestantism, and Orthodox Christianity, are represented in Japan today. The majority of Japanese people are of the Shinto or Buddhist faith. The majority of Japanese couples, typically 60–70%, are wed in Christian ceremonies. This makes Christian weddings the most influential aspect of Christianity in contemporary Japan.

James Intercisus

Saint James Intercisus, also known as 'Saint James the Mutilated' & 'Mor Yakoob Maphasko Sahada' was a Syriac Christian saint born in Beth Huzaye in Persia. His epithet, Intercisus, is derived from the Latin word for "cut into pieces," which refers to the manner of his martyrdom: he was slowly cut into twenty-eight pieces. His death started the Roman-Sassanid War (421-422).

<i>Silence</i> (Endō novel)

Silence is a 1966 novel of theological fiction by Japanese author Shūsaku Endō, published in English by Peter Owen Publishers. It is the story of a Jesuit missionary sent to 17th century Japan, who endures persecution in the time of Kakure Kirishitan that followed the defeat of the Shimabara Rebellion. The recipient of the 1966 Tanizaki Prize, it has been called "Endo's supreme achievement" and "one of the twentieth century's finest novels". Written partly in the form of a letter by its central character, the theme of a silent God who accompanies a believer in adversity was greatly influenced by the Catholic Endō's experience of religious discrimination in Japan, racism in France, and a debilitating bout with tuberculosis.

Martyr Saints of China Catholic martyrs from several centuries canonized by John Paul II in 2000

The Martyr Saints of China, or Augustine Zhao Rong and his Companions, are 120 saints of the Catholic Church. The 87 Chinese Catholics and 33 Western missionaries from the mid-17th century to 1930 were martyred because of their ministry and, in some cases, for their refusal to apostatize.

Christianity and fringed garments refers to the mention of fringed garments in Christian sources, and to their use in Christian ritual, and to the possible connection to Jewish tzitzit and tallit.

Christian atheism is a form of Christianity that rejects theistic claims of Christianity, but draws its beliefs and practices from Jesus' life and/or teachings as recorded in the New Testament Gospels and other sources.

Murayama Tōan Antonio (村山等安) was a 17th-century Japanese magistrate of the city of Nagasaki. He was born in Nagoya from a humble background, and he was a Christian. He played an important role in the handling of "Nanban trade" in Nagasaki with Christian powers, and led an invasion to Taiwan, before being executed for his Christian faith.

Marcello Francesco Mastrilli was an Italian Jesuit missionary who was martyred in Japan on Mount Unzen during the Tokugawa Shogunate, which had banned Christianity in 1614. After sailing for Japan out to find and possibly reconvert the notorious apostate Cristóvão Ferreira, who went to Japan and renounced his faith there, he was arrested as soon as he got off his ship. After three days of torture in the pit of Nagasaki, he was beheaded. A painting of his death, Martyrdom of Saint Marcello Mastrilli (1664), was made by Antonio Maria Vassallo.

Cristóvão Ferreira Portuguese Jesuit missionary

Cristóvão Ferreira was a Portuguese Catholic priest and Jesuit missionary who committed apostasy after being captured and tortured during the anti-Christian purges in 17th-century Japan. During the Tokugawa shogunate, Christian missionaries and their Japanese followers were persecuted, arrested and executed. Authorities were concerned that the religion was making followers loyal to Christian nations rather than the Emperor or the Shogunate.

Decian persecution Christian persecution resulting from Roman edict

The Decian persecution of Christians occurred in 250 AD under the Roman Emperor Decius. He had issued an edict ordering everyone in the Empire to perform a sacrifice to the Roman gods and the well-being of the emperor. The sacrifices had to be performed in the presence of a Roman magistrate, and be confirmed by a signed and witnessed certificate from the magistrate. Although the text of the edict has been lost, many examples of the certificates have survived.

<i>Grave of the Fireflies</i> (2005 film)

Grave of the Fireflies is a live-action TV drama adaptation of Grave of the Fireflies, made by NTV in Japan. It was produced in commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II. The drama aired on November 1, 2005. Like the anime, the live-action version of Grave of the Fireflies focuses on two siblings, Seita and Setsuko, struggling to survive the final days of the war in Kobe, Japan. Unlike the animated version, however, it tells the story from the point of view of their cousin and also deals with the issue of how the war-time environment could change a kind lady into a hard-hearted woman. The film stars Nanako Matsushima as the aunt and Mao Inoue as the cousin.

Giuseppe di Chiara was an Italian Jesuit missionary active in 17th century Japan.

<i>Silence</i> (2016 film) 2016 film directed by Martin Scorsese

Silence is a 2016 epic historical drama film directed by Martin Scorsese and with a screenplay by Jay Cocks and Scorsese, based on the 1966 novel of the same name by Shūsaku Endō. Set in Nagasaki, Japan, the film was shot in Taiwan, using studios in Taipei and Taichung and locations in Hualien County. The film stars Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver, Liam Neeson, Tadanobu Asano, and Ciarán Hinds. The plot follows two 17th-century Jesuit priests who travel from Portugal to Edo-era Japan via Macau to locate their missing mentor and spread Catholic Christianity. The story is set in a time when it was common for the faith's Japanese adherents to hide from the persecution that resulted from the suppression of Christianity in Japan during the Shimabara Rebellion (1637–1638) against the Tokugawa shogunate. These are now called the kakure kirishitan, or "hidden Christians". It is the second filmed adaptation of Endō's novel, following a 1971 film of the same name.


  1. "沈黙". Agency for Cultural Affairs 映画情報システム. Retrieved 2 November 2019.
  2. "Festival de Cannes: Silence". Retrieved 13 April 2009.
  3. Romans 8:18-25
  4. 1 Corinthians 13:13
  5. Ruth 4:5