Secondly, what did you all make of the actually quite present voice and image of God near the end of the movie? Hallucination brought on by madness and torture? Or real? I was surprised for a minute there, but then I remembered that this was a Scorsese movie and nothing's gonna stop him from doing something bold. I loved the use of the portrait as God, and I quite liked how Scorsese used it (first in that smaller hallucination at the stream and then big and bold and full-framed. It's that kind of quietly dazzling filmmaking that is what I've come to love most in films, and it's all over this movie.
A fascinating, essential moment that I at first took as pure hallucination/disorientation akin to the stream moment (it's a wonderful, perplexing parallel set of scenes) but then thought could actually be God, and the power of the voice and the image (so truly stunning) made me lean towards the latter interpretation. But I think, ultimately, we can't know either way because of the subjectivity of the perspective. What I loved about it - that moment - was the embrace of his own failure, the final skewering of all his pride, a choice that meant he would never be a martyr as he thought he would be, and so prove his faith. He was, after all, only as strong or as weak as Kichijiro, a constantly lapsing Christian who perhaps cannot ever be called a real Christian or would not be called so. But the irony of course is that while he failed to be a "Christian martyr" (something that might be seen as the ultimate proof of faith), what he did was at the same time an act of faith. An impossible decision that had no clear path - any path was the wrong one - and so he simply had to step forward and give up all pretensions to knowing he knew anything at all about what was right. And he could not, thereafter, presume to speak as a representative of the faith. And yet, what I loved about this failure, this stepping on the face of Christ instead of being a martyr, was the way it was so fully complicated in the following, final scenes. In more straight forward film, there would be a fall into nihilism or perhaps hedonism or atheism: I cannot know what it right and I cannot be what is good and the church has failed and therefore, God is dead. Or, if not nihilism or atheism, another film might show him falling into a Christian hypocrisy and a denial of his failure. But the end leaves the space for something more complex than either of those things. A faith that is real but a weak faith, barely visible - one that we perhaps doubt is there at all, one that hides and perhaps needs the actions of others (eg. his wife and her final act for him, placing an object of faith into his literally dead hands that cannot act on their own) to exist at all - but it is there, utterly humbled and emptied of the self and of pride. If God is there, I think the suggestion is, it will be up to him in the end, not to Rodrigues, as Rodrigues had thought throughout the bulk of the film.