Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan


(USA, Taiwan, Mexico, 2016)

This was a passion project for Martin Scorsese, something he worked twenty-five years to make. It concerns the awful trials of three Catholic missionaries in Japan in the 1630s. I’ll admit that I had no idea that there were any Catholics in Japan that far back. But there were, and they were not welcome. They and their faithful followers were tortured and killed for refusing to renounce Christianity by stomping on a cross. Liam Neeson and Andrew Garfield eventually do so, after much moral struggle.

It does raise some questions … questions that I’m sorry to say just don’t interest me much. If you, as a priest, are told that your parishioners will be tortured and killed if you refuse to spit on a cross, what is the moral thing to do? For me it’s a total no-brainer, but I could never possibly agonize over such a thing because Christianity don’t mean shit to me. And in fact I had a great deal of sympathy for the Japanese. What the hell were they supposed to do, confronted by these assholes who viewed them as ignorant savages in need of salvation, when in fact in many ways Japanese society was far superior to the cesspools known as “civilization” in Europe.

And in further fact, I just hate “missionaries,” those self-righteous zealots convinced they are much, much holier than you are, you poor thing. There is no way I’m going to get too upset when a missionary is burned at the stake. My sympathy was only for the Japanese converts, who willingly allowed themselves to suffer agony (and you know suffering is good for you; Mother Teresa, that horrible, horrible woman, said so!) rather than renounce Jesus. Frankly, this movie left a bad taste in my mouth. I’m glad Scorsese has it out of his system.