Silence (2016)

But I could not abandon them, even if I had abandoned God. So I watched them die.

Pray with your eyes open.

Second viewing really situates Kichijiro at the ethical heart of the film’s moral maze of ambiguities; his perseverance reverberates back from the climax towards his introduction in moments where Rodrigues’ engagements with him appear marked by God’s light (apprehension of his troubles and the danger he struggles to contain, and, most obviously, the imagery of his first confession).

And light itself, literally, finds new spaces and expressions as the film progresses: from the harsh dualities of the opening stretch (the nocturnal regime, the occlusive fog) to the flickering ambiguities of the encaged third act, compressed further and solidified into internal forms. Lingering on a soup bowl slid carefully over a dappled woven mat where once we had lingered on the romantic conveyance of a handheld crucifix by candlelight — growing to accept one’s surroundings and the necessity to learn and understand, shaking off the blinding obsession with precedent (We offer mass — just as they did in the catacombs! — at night). This is the beauty that Rodrigues ascribes to evil itself, the evil of which he deems Kichijiro not worthy in his abjection, but it is inevitable that the soft, private light of a domestic interior is what persists through a screen when he tries to shut Kichijiro’s revelation away from the attentions of the world. 

While the shift towards privacy is as close as Rodrigues’ ethical (/spiritual/political) journey comes to a resolution, I’m not yet satisfied with the implications this has for Kichijiro himself in his final calamity, but the eloquence of Scorsese’s reticence picks up overwhelmingly with Rodrigues’ wife. It may be the influence of my current read, Qiu Miaojin’s Last Words from Montmatre, and its attention to life’s ‘ruptures’ and declarations of new beginnings, first beginnings, but the impassive sketch of an entire life of love lived together in secret, lived but not heard or seen, will linger longer than the film’s final flourish. Just her posture and the silent shout of her expressionless face in her final shot serves a perfect reply to Rodrigues’ first impression of the Japanese people’s nobly worn, mask-like demeanours.

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