Brutal, brutally long, nearly three hours. Brutal to look at, not only for the scenes of torture but for refusal to go for much in the way of “interesting”, “moving” “beautiful” shots. Hardly any music. No concessions made to the viewer; there are serious matters to be dealt with here, you either concentrate or get up and leave
The film is about issues that almost no one cares about in the secularized West, religious faith: given the silence of God, how can anyone believe? And can you renounce your faith to save your life, or that of another?
Another issue: forgiveness: what does it mean? How many times can you offer it to the same person for doing the same thing?
There’s an element of homoeroticism in the relationship between the young priests and the figure of Jesus Christ.
The question of martyrdom: there are Christians being martyred for their faith in the Middle East today: members of ancient sects presented with the option of martyrdom or death.
Just after the final frame; the film is dedicated to the Christians of Japan and their priests.
The film’s main weakness is language: the Japanese speak their own language among themselves but “Portuguese” (English, in a variety of unlikely accents) to the priests and of course the Portuguese also speak “Portuguese”. I guess though Scorsese would never have got any money to make the film if he’d shot it in Portuguese and Japanese.
Overall: a great artist looking hard at unbearably difficult questions and making no concessions to his soft Western audience. A film that demands repeated viewings, one that might be more deeply understood in some village in Iraq or Syria than in many of the places that it will actually be shown.


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