Realizing a dream he’s talked about for well over 20 years, sounds as if financing is at last coming together for Martin Scorsese to bring The Silence to the screen. Set to begin filming in Taiwan in July 2014, the adaptation of Shusaku Endo’s novel will be Scorsese’s next project after wrapping The Wolf Of Wall Street.
Thirty years ago the Japanese novelist Shusaku Endo published Silence, a novel meant to tell the story of missionaries in 17th-century Japan, whose efforts were subject to fierce repression, through a story that concretely examines nothing less than the nature of faith, of loyalty under extreme duress to Jesus and His Church, and therefore of martyrdom. The novel’s central character is a Portuguese Jesuit, Sebastian Rodrigues, and what we read is an account of this young missionary priest’s experiences in Japan, where he has gone in order to learn the whereabouts, the fate, of another Jesuit, Christovao Ferreira, who is reported to have apostatized after a long career in Asia, much to the disbelief of his fellow Jesuits in Rome and elsewhere. Fr. Rodrigues and another Jesuit, Francisco Garrpe, eventually get to Japan (the year is 1638), and the heart of the novel is a letter written by Fr. Rodrigues (it is declared a part of Catholic missionary history) which chronicles the extreme suffering of persecuted believers, not to mention the spiritual tests and trials put to the man whose words are a record, obviously, an account of a story, but something else, too — a challenge to us: What does Jesus ask of us, expect from us, in our daily lives? (New Oxford Review)
Scorsese has tried to get this ambitious project underway many times over the years, with Daniel Day-Lewis, Benicio Del Toro and Gael Garcia Bernal rumored to star, but his efforts have always been thwarted by setbacks that must have felt like a parallel set of tests, trials and spiritual persecution of their own. Scorsese and Jay Cocks wrote the screenplay, negotiations are being worked out with Graham King for his ownership rights in the story, and the director intends to travel to Cannes to launch publicity for pre-production. Deadline’s Mike Fleming spoke with Scorsese in 2011 about his passionate attachment to Silence.
DEADLINE: You’ve tried to adapt the Shusaku Endo novel Silence, about 17th century Jesuits who risk their lives to bring Christianity to Japan. It isn’t commercial, it has been hard to finance, but it looks like you’ll finally get your chance to make it. Why has it been so important to you?
SCORSESE: My initial interests in life were very strongly formed by what I took seriously at that time, and 45-50 years ago I was steeped in the Roman Catholic religion. As you get older, ideas go and come. Questions, answers, loss of the answer again and more questions, and this is what really interests me. Yes, the Cinema and the people in my life and my family are most important, but ultimately as you get older, there’s got to be more. Much, much more. The very nature of secularism right now is really fascinating to me, but at the same time do you wipe away what could be more enriching in your life, which is an appreciation or some sort of search for that which is spiritual and transcends? That’s one of the reasons why I made the George Harrison documentary. Silence is just something that 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.
DEADLINE: Are the questions you’re asking here similar to the questions that drew you to Last Temptation of Christ?
SCORSESE: Yes, but this is a different line of questioning.
DEADLINE: We Catholics are always struggling for answers.
SCORSESE: There are no answers. We all know that. You try to live in the grace that you can. But there are no answers, but the point is, you keep looking. Because people tell you science tells us everything. Science doesn’t! They just have discovered these Neutrinos that go faster than the speed of light. And there is this idea that once we got to a point in the mid-20th century and now the 21st century where everything is known in a sense, right? Well, we don’t! We don’t really know everything. I mean, yes, we don’t know what happened in the Big Bang, but we understand the idea of progress. But have we really progressed? We’ve progressed on the outside, but what about inside? What about the soul and the heart? Without trying to sound pompous and ridiculous, I can tell you this is where my interest is.