“There Be Dragons” is a movie that took inspirations from real characters and events perfectly combining a factual person as well as fictional individuals. It tells the struggle of young idealists during the Spanish Civil War (July 17,1936- April 1, 1939), as well as that of a young priest, Josemaria Escriva, founder of Opus Dei and later canonized in 2002 as “the saint of the ordinary”.
“There Be Dragons” opens with a London-based writer, Roberto Torres trying to write a book about a newly canonized saint, Josemaria Escriva. As he was researching on his subject, he later found out that his own father, Manolo went to the seminary with Escriva. The seminary was not the only thing that tied Josemaria and Manolo together- they were childhood friends and their relationship was tested throughout the Spanish Civil War. Hence, Manolo is the best resource person for Roberto’s book but he is the most reluctant. Add the fact that father and son haven’t spoken in 8 years. Roberto “hated” his father so much that he doesn’t want to be a father himself.
Manolo and Josemaria grew up in the town of Barbastro, Spain. Manolo came from a rich father and so is Josemaria but the latter’s father went bankrupt. The two met again in a seminary ( but ended in a brawl) where Josemaria view priesthood as a vocation while Manolo like most men at that time thinks that being a priest is just a career option. The more Manolo shove Josemaria in his life, the more hope and patience Josemaria has for his dear friend.
Josemaria continues his vocation while Manolo avenging for his father’s death directly involved himself in the Civil War as a spy for the Nationalists. While fighting with the Republicans, he met a 19-year old Hungarian Ildiko. Manolo’s love for Ildiko was unrequited for she has her eyes on Oriol, leader of the Republican fighters.
As Manolo fights for his ideologies and for Ildiko’s affection, Josemaria was also facing another – anti-clerical movements. The Spanish Civil War left more than half a million dead with at least 6,000 priests and members of the clergy. The Republicans accuse the Church for siding with the Nationalist insurgents led by Gen. Francisco Franco. It was also this time that Josemaria Escriva started one of the most significant institutions of the Catholic Church – Opus Dei.
As what Charlie Cox, who portrays Josemaria Escriva in this film said, “There Be Dragons” is not “he did this and that; but what he did in spite of”. The film tells the Josemaria Escriva’s life story as one who faced a strong current of this time to establish and fight for vocation. Like a modern Christian persecution, he had to wear not just “regular” clothes but a wedding ring ( his mother’s idea) to protect himself from the mob. He continued celebrating masses in spite of the hunt for priests; hearing confessions in zoos and other unlikely places. And just like a Holocaust, he experienced hiding in an apartment’s secret chamber while being protected by a Republican Captain who symphatized for his causes. The story follows the saint’s struggle and reluctance to cross the Pyreness Mountain to reach Andorra, a place dominated by the Nationalist thus for Escriva’s safety.
And as for Manolo, the last chapter of his life during the Civil War answers all the questions about his relationship with his son Roberto.The movie finally wraps to revelations that led to forgiveness and expressing love that has been kept in a dark casket for a long time.
The movie opens with the cameras rolling on a medieval map; the time when people think that the Earth is flat. There was a belief that dragons dwell in the unknown lands as ship “drops” into the horizon. Director/Writer Joffe used the idea to come up with the title “There Be Dragons” to symbolize the unkown. The unknown including his participation in this film.
“There Be Dragons” is also a metaphor for the dark and unknown times of our lives. As we live, we will come across and experience worse cases of uncertainties that will draw us close to God. But whatever dragon we have in our lives, “what matters most is how we face them”.
“There Be Dragons” is a brilliant movie that awakens our hearts to those we love and to those we have neglected. Wisely written to portray a saint’s life in a less dogmatic way, it is for the audience to appreciate people in our lives. In this film, history tells us on the effects when we opt to take sides – when we put animosity on the pedestal.
The film also shows the human side and human struggle of a saint and with this, sheds a light that we can live in saintly manner without going to a vocation. Our love for our parents and spouse and other actions as we live our “ordinary” life is saintly enough- one of the core beliefs of the Opus Dei.
This film offers the real story of the Opus Dei and its founder as it was pre-judged by Dan Brown’s novel and the movie, the Da Vinci Code. One of the scenes in the film shows is the rationale behind flogging – one of the things that the Da Vinci Code made very felonious.The film clears many misinterpretations of the organization and the founder and for members will let them appreciate the movement even more.
For the regular moviegoer, the movie goes beyond the usual Hollywood fare. Filled with heavy emotions and scenes, it is movie for those who want to reflect from a film – not just mere visual entertainment.
A must-see, “There Be Dragons” reminds us of our co-existence in this world is shaped by love, humility and forgiveness.