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MSU professor consults on latest Martin Scorsese film, "Silence"

January 18, 2017
<p>MSU professor Liam Brockey was a consultant in the Martin&nbsp;Scorsese film, "Silence." Courtesy of Shelby Kroske.</p>

MSU professor Liam Brockey was a consultant in the Martin Scorsese film, "Silence." Courtesy of Shelby Kroske.

With any historical movie, usually there are consultants to offer knowledge on a subject or situation in order to provide the filmmakers with the most accurate representation of what happened in that time period.

MSU professor Liam Brockey was one of these consultants for the movie “Silence”, which was directed by Martin Scorsese and features a star-studded cast that includes Adam Driver, Andrew Garfield and Liam Neeson.

“Silence” was released on Dec. 23, 2016 and is based on the book “Silence” written by Japanese author Shusaku Endo in 1966. The film is about two Christian missionaries searching for their mentor in Japan at a time when Christianity was outlawed, according to its IMDb page.

Brockey said the process started 10 years ago, when his brother-in-law in Portugal told Brockey that he'd heard someone was planning to make a movie about missionaries in Asia, which is one of Brockey’s fields of study.

“I said, 'thanks, but how am I going to do that?'” he said.

Brockey’s brother, who was in the movie business at the time, knew one of the producers of movie and told Brockey to send him a letter. He told Brockey that the producer would keep it on file for when they started the movie.

Brockey then proceeded to write two books on the subject surrounding the movie: "Journey to the East: The Jesuit Mission to China, 1579-1724" and "The Visitor: André Palmeiro and the Jesuits in Asia."

Three years ago, the lead researcher at Scorsese’s production company told Brockey they’re officially going to make the movie. The production crew used his comments on the script and the set to make the movie accurate to the time period.

Brockey said “Silence” is a three-legged stool with Endo’s book, dealing with the vision of “one of the most important creative geniuses of our day” in Scorsese and the actual historical events, which are real, “to a certain degree.”

“My job was to sort of say, ‘we can pull more towards the novel, pull more towards the director’s vision or we can pull more towards what happened and what we know,’” he said. “One of the big challenges was reconciling those three things.”

Brockey said he wasn’t the only consultant on “Silence.” There were other consultants, such as a specialist in Japanese history, a specialist in Jesuit and a translator who recently translated the newer edition of the Endo book.

Brockey said it feels good to have field of study listened to, compare to some of his courses at MSU, especially since he spends so much time reading documents from the 17th century, analyzing them and trying to "imagine" the world the people lived in.

“If you spend a lot of time imagining how something would be in a given context, and then somebody made a movie about it, you might agree or disagree about how that came out,” he said. “But if you had a part in actually how that was sort of brought to the screen, it’s obviously very professionally fulfilling and very interesting for me to actually be part of that, because this is what I think of.”

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