Martin Scorsese’s most recent film is an unusual one. It is long, it is serious, but it is fascinating. It is a huge film, in more ways than one. It apparently took him ten years to get it made. It takes the audience nearly three hours to get it watched. The journeys of its characters are also huge.
This film is concerned about the concept of space, and distance. Its characters move great distances – geographically, culturally, spiritually, and consciously. The story’s central Portugese Catholic Priests – Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield), Garupe (Adam Driver) and Ferreira (Liam Neeson) represent three different paths. All have traveled from Europe to Japan aiming to spread their religion, and to combat the persecution of Catholics in Japan. However, each character takes a very different path, and ends in a different place. Rodrigues is presented as our hero, and appears most steadfast in his religious beliefs, but is more flexible and understanding of the complex cultural and philosophical position of the Japanese Christians than his colleague, Garupe. Ferreira was their teacher, and they soon hear that he has settled in Japan, and has perhaps changed under the influence of his new environment.
Theme of distance and the attempt to close that distance through a journey: Physical travel from Europe to Japan is achieved by boat. The cultural distance between the Portugese and the Japanese is substantial, even for those who seem to share religious beliefs. The divide between native and coloniser is also visible here, and is connected to the divide between Buddhism and Catholicism.
[Under construction – 1/3/17 – I can’t access my drafts on the free version? So I’m just publishing unfinished articles to be safe]