Martin Scorsese: Keep the Faith

Photo by Aurore Marechal/Sipa USA(Sipa via AP Images)

The great director Martin Scorsese has a new movie out and, while most people haven’t had a chance to see it yet, it’s already making waves. Not in the sense that Mean Streets or Taxi Driver did, but in this way:

Hollywood legend Martin Scorsese said that despite “horrific” conflicts around the world involving religion “we shouldn’t toss away spirituality”.

The Oscar-winning maker of “Taxi Driver” and “The Last Temptation of Christ” told reporters on Thursday that he had to overcome “monumental legal and financial problems” to make his latest film “Silence” about the martyrdom of hidden Catholics and Jesuit missionaries in Japan in the 17th century.

“I was constantly discouraged from making it by Hollywood,” said the 74-year-old director, who insisted that the human need for spirituality cannot be ignored. He said his film, which he had been trying to make for two decades, was a meditation on the spiritual reflex. “It does exist. So how do we nurture it? Not necessarily through religion but in the spiritual meaning of being a human being.”

Scorsese said that while “there are horrific events going on in the world” tied to religion “we shouldn’t toss away spirituality”.

Of course, most all of Scorsese’s film are about spirituality in one form or another, even if they may not at first seem so. And, as it happens, the screenplay for Silence was written by (full disclosure) my friend and former Time magazine colleague Jay Cocks, a frequent collaborator with Scorsese who also provided the scripts for Gangs of New York and The Age of Innocence, both of which were nominated for Oscars; Jay also did some uncredited script-doctoring on The Last Temptation of Christ, a film that, typically, got the evangelicals all riled up. Indeed, Scorsese’s work is not only infused with Christianity, but with an Italian Catholicism that would do Camille Paglia proud: just think of the end of Mean Streets, for example.

The director, who has described himself as a “lapsed Catholic, but I am Catholic — there’s no way out of it”, said “three or four great actors” had turned down parts in the film because they “couldn’t take” its religious subject matter or “put themselves in that position” before Adam Driver and Liam Neeson signed up for the project.

But Scorsese, who talked to reporters in Paris as the film opened across Europe, was unapologetic about the film addressing the big eternal questions.

– ‘This is who I am’ –

The fallacy of the atheists lies in thinking that a world without faith would somehow be a better, less violent world, when in fact the exact opposite is true.