Martin Scorsese's ‘Silence’ to be released in December

Liam Neeson in 'Silence'
Liam Neeson stars as Fr Ferreira in Martin Scorsese's film 'Silence'

Paramount Pictures have confirmed that Martin Scorsese’s much anticipated film about two 17th century Jesuit missionaries will be released in the United States shortly before Christmas, with wider distribution in the New Year.

Silence is based on the novel of the same name by Japanese author Shūsaku Endō, and it has been Scorsese’s passion to turn it into a film since 1991. Various problems delayed the project going into production until April 2013, when Scorsese said he would begin work on Silence the following year. It was also announced at the time that it would be shot in Taiwan.

Shūsaku Endō’s story centres on two Jesuit priests sent to Japan to preach Christianity in the middle of the 17th century. Andrew Garfield was cast as Fr Sebastião Rodrigues SJ, with Adam Driver in the role of Fr Francisco Garrpe SJ. Liam Neeson will play their mentor, Fr Cristóvão Ferreira SJ, whom Rodrigues and Garrpe seek to find following the defeat of the Shimabara Rebellion (1637/38), in the wake of which Christianity was strictly prohibited.  Once the missionaries arrive in Japan, they endure brutal persecution at the time when many Christians – known as Kakure Kirishitan or Hidden Christians – went underground for fear of reprisals. Fr Ferreira was the highly respected Portuguese Provincial and leader of the Jesuit mission in Japan who was reported to have apostatized and possibly even collaborated with the authorities.

A search for the spiritual

Earlier this year, Martin Scorsese stated at the Cannes Film Festival: "As you get older, ideas go and come ... The very nature of secularism right now is really fascinating to me, but at the same time do you wipe away what could be more enriching in your life, which is an appreciation or some sort of search for that which is spiritual and transcends? … Silence is just something that I’m drawn to in that way. It’s been an obsession, it has to be done ... It’s a strong, wonderful true story, a thriller in a way, but it deals with those questions."

Silence is scheduled for release in the USA on 23 December 2016 and is already tipped for Academy Awards nominations. In addition to Leeson, Garfield and Driver, the cast of Silence also features Ciaran Hinds, Tadanobu Asano and Shinya Tsukamoto. The screenplay has been written by Jay Cocks, who worked with Scorsese on Gangs of New York and The Age of Innocence.