Famed film director Martin Scorsese’s new film Silence is set to premiere at the Vatican Tuesday, despite the church’s longtime criticism of his 1988 film The Last Temptation of Christ.
The new film has a running time of 159 minutes, although reports originally claimed it would span more than three hours. The story is based on a Japanese novel about the experiences of two Jesuit missionaries sent to Japan in an era of “hidden Christians” when the religion was banned in the country.
The film was a longtime project for the acclaimed director. Scorsese worked on the film for 27 years, describing it as “an obsession.”
“As you get older, ideas come and go. Questions, answers, loss of the answer again and more questions, and this is what really interests me,” Scorsese said about the film. “Silence is just something I’m drawn to in that way. It’s been an obsession, it has to be done and now is the time to do it. It’s a strong, wonderful true story, a thriller in a way, but it deals with those questions.”
A trailer for the film was released Nov. 24 featuring actors Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver as the primary characters, as well as Liam Neeson as the missionaries’ mentor.
Despite the location of the world premiere, the church has confirmed that Pope Francis will not attend the premiere; however, 400 priests will join the audience to view the film.
The location raised some eyebrows as critics recalled the response Scorsese received from the Catholic Church more than 30 years ago, when his film about Jesus facing temptations, sometimes unsuccessfully, premiered. Television personality nun Mother Angelica described it as “a holocaust movie that has the power to destroy souls eternally.”
The Last Temptation was widely protested by Christian groups when it was released in theaters in 1988 for depicting Jesus as giving into temptations, including sexual encounters with Mary Magdalene. Bishop Anthony Bosco said, “I looked in vain for the message of love. Scorsese has given us an angry Christ, a bumbling Christ, a Christ more of this world than the next.” Mother Teresa said in a statement, “Our Blessed Mother (Mary) will see that this film is removed from your land.”
The new film is likely to garner some criticism from Catholics as well. Leeds University Japanese Studies Professor Mark Williams said that in Japan, “the hardcore Catholic community view it as heretical and blasphemous… [The author] was persona non grata among Japanese Catholics. You can’t find the book in any Christian bookshops.”
Garfield and Driver have received extensive media attention for their efforts in the new film, including spending seven days in silence together in Wales.
Garfield has spoken extensively about his religious experiences throughout filming, and Scorsese commented that he could “out-Jesuit a Jesuit” by the film’s wrap up.
“If I’d had ten years, it wouldn’t have been enough to prepare for this role,” Garfield said about the film. “I got totally swept up in all things Jesuit and very taken with Jesuit spirituality.”
“The preparation went on for nearly a year, and by the time we got to Taiwan, it was bursting out of me,” he said. “I don’t think I am called to be a priest. But I had the feeling that I was being called to something, called to work with one of the great directors, and called to this role as something I had to pursue for my spiritual development.”
The Catholic Church has not issued any statements of warning, precaution, or concern ahead of Scorsese’s release, which may indicate that they are receptive to its potentially uncomfortable religious stances and implications.
[Featured Image by AP Images]