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February 23, 2009

Scorsese Plans Japanese Martyr Flick

Tells story of a Portuguese missionary in Japan in early 17th century

Zenit reports that Academy Award-winning director Martin Scorsese is planning a movie on Japanese Christians martyred in the 17th century, to be released in 2010. Daniel Day-Lewis, Gael GarcĂ­a Bernal, and Benicio Del Toro have been linked to the project, based on the book Chinmoku (Silence), by the Catholic Japanese author Shusaku Endo. The novel tells the story of a Portuguese missionary in Japan at the beginnings of the 17th century.

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Silence is one of my favorite books, but it doesn't seem like it would make the transition from page to screen very well. Still, I plan on seeing it.

I'm ridiculously excited about this news. Silence is an amazing book... and this cast seems spot on.

For what it's worth, Silence has been filmed before, in Japan in 1971. According to the IMDb, Shusaku Endo himself worked on the adaptation. It's available on DVD via the Masters of Cinema label.

I'm joining the chorus of excitement here. The cast looks amazing. I'm less excited about Scorsese. I have respect for him, but sense this material might be beyond him in the sense that I think the story is most powerful (and most devastating) for people of faith. I'm not sure how he's going to honestly access the tortured issues of grace and witness at the center of the story. I'd be happy to see him succeed, but I think it's more likely this movie might end up being a sort of anti-missionary tract. Which would be a real shame. In any case, I recommend everyone read the book before the movie comes out. In fact, it would be a great book to read right now during Lent.

Yeah, it's an exciting possibility. But this news story has been popping up every few months for the last several years (including in CT's own "Reel News" just a few weeks ago). If Scorsese actually intends to start making this movie instead of just talking about it, I may actually start to get excited.

(And here's another great story about Christian faith that, if it came from "the Christian film industry", would very likely be rewritten, with a very very different ending.)