There Be Dragons
By Sr. Rose Pacatte, F.S.P.
The death of a Spanish priest by the name of Josemarie Escriva in 1975 generated a lot of talk about his holiness.
Wes Bentley stars in a scene from the movie "There Be Dragons."
A Spanish journalist living in London, Robert Torres (Dougray Scott) , is assigned to investigate the life of Escriva, the founder of a Catholic group called Opus Dei. Robert is surprised when he learns that his father Manolo (Wes Bentley) and Escriva (Charlie Cox) were from same village and actually studied at the same seminary for a brief time. Robert return to Spain hoping to learn more about Escriva from his father, but Manolo will not speak with him.
However, Manolo has recorded and written his memories and this new film by the Oscar nominated director, Roland Joffe (“The Killing Fields” 1984 and “The Mission” 1986), uses this method to flash back to tell the story of these two men and the separate paths they take in life.
Most of the film is set during the Spanish Civil War, 1936-1939. Josemaria becomes a priest and founds a community called “Opus Dei” to help everyone become holy in daily life. Manolo chooses the dark side, his heart consumed by envy, jealousy, and rage.
“There Be Dragons” is not a biography of St. Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer. Instead, Joffe decided to use a dualistic formula and created a fictional character whose flaws and evil choices offset the holiness of Josemaria. One chooses good, the other chooses evil.
The title, “There Be Dragons” is taken from ancient maps that termed mysterious regions as “Here be dragons.” Joffe assigns many dragons to Manolo, but Josemaria has few interior struggles, if any.
The film was shot in Spain and Argentina and is gorgeous to look at. The acting is good. I had hoped to learn about Josemaria and Opus Dei but was disappointed. Alas, the film is more about Manolo, his violence and need for forgiveness and reconciliation than about the saint’s interior life and an understanding of his work. Nevertheless, there are some luminous moments that can inspire.
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