Silence is the story of a Jesuit missionary sent to seventeenth century Japan to investigate claims of religious persecution, based on a novel of historical fiction by Japanese author Shusaku Endo.

Andrew Garfield will star as Father Rodrigues, a Portuguese Jesuit who travels with a fellow priest to seventeenth century Japan in the time of Kakure Kirishitan ("Hidden Christians") that followed the defeat of the Shimabara Rebellion. The two priests arrive amid rumors that Rodrigues' mentor has abandoned the Church, and find the local Christian population driven underground by religious persecution. Liam Neeson will play a priest who landed in Japan over a decade earlier and has gone missing.

Ciarán will play Alessandro Valignano (1539-1606), an Italian Jesuit missionary, who helped introduce Catholicism to the Far East, and instructed Ruggieri and Ricci, the first missionaries to be allowed to stay in Ming China, to translate the key texts of Confucian philosophy.

Paramount will distribute the film in the U.S., and is aiming for a 2016 release.

Excerpt from the translator's preface of the 1969 edition

CHRISTIANITY was brought to Japan by the Basque Francis Xavier, who stepped ashore at Kagoshima in the year 1549 with two Jesuit companions and a Japanese interpreter. Within a few months of his arrival, Xavier had fallen in love with the Japanese whom he called 'the joy of his heart'. 'The people whom we have met so far', he wrote enthusiastically to his companions in Goa, 'are the best who have as yet been discovered, and it seems to me that we shall never find... another race to equal the Japanese.' In spite of linguistic difficulties ('We are like statues among them,' he lamented) he brought some hundreds to the Christian faith before departing for China, the conversion of which seemed to him a necessary prelude to that of Japan. Yet Xavier never lost his love of the Japanese; and, in an age that tended to relegate to some kind of inferno everyone outside Christendom, it is refreshing to find him extolling the Japanese for virtues which Christian Europeans did not possess.

The real architect of the Japanese mission, however, was not Xavier but the Italian, Alessandro Valignano, who united Xavier's enthusiasm to a remarkable foresight and tenacity of purpose. By the time of his first visit to Japan in 1579 there was already a flourishing community of some 150,000 Christians, whose sterling qualities and deep faith inspired in Valignano the vision of a totally Christian island in the north of Asia. Obviously, however, such an island must quickly be purged of all excessive foreign barbarian influence; and Valignano, anxious to entrust the infant Church to a local clergy with all possible speed, set about the founding of seminaries, colleges and a novitiate - promptly despatching to Macao Francisco Cabral, who strongly opposed the plan of an indigenous Japanese Church.

Soon things began to look up: daimyos in Kyushu embraced the Christian faith, bringing with them a great part of their subjects; and a thriving Japanese clergy took shape. Clearly Valignano had been building no castles in the air: his dream was that of a sober realist. It should be noted that the missionary effort was initiated in the Sengoku Period when Japan, torn by strife among the warring daimyos, had no strong central government. The distressful situation of the country, however, was not without advantages for the missionaries who, when persecuted in one fief, could quickly shake the dust off their feet and betake themselves elsewhere. But unification was close at hand; and Japan was soon to be welded into that solid monolith which was eventually to break out over Asia in 1940. (William Johnston,Sophia University, Tokyo)

Character: Father Alessandro Valignano
Co-stars: Liam Neeson, Andrew Garfield
Director: Martin Scorcese
Screenplay: Jay Cocks
Run-time: 161 mn
Release date: 2016

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