Paramount Pictures

Martin Scorsese's Silence, about two 17th century priests who travel to Japan during a period of brutal Christian persecution, shows how difficult it is to create art from a worldview that won't be shared by many in the audience.

For a nonbeliever, the premise may well read as lacking heft. What's the big deal about stepping on an image of Jesus, anyway? Surely it's worth doing to keep dozens of your followers from being tortured and killed? Yet for people of faith, watching the protagonist inch toward apostasy as a broken man can be a soul-crushing experience.

Silence is an instance of pop culture grappling with impossible theological questions about the demands of morality, and yet it has gone unnoticed by most of the population. It's a box-office flop that spawned a thousand think pieces.