There Be Dragons is a war biography written and directed by Roland Joffé. The film stars Charlie Cox (Stardust), Wes Bentley (Jonah Hex), and Dougray Scott (My Week with Marilyn). In Joffe’s ‘There Be Dragons,’ a journalist discovers his father had a deep, dark, and devastating secret.
“When fascism and communism were spreading across Europe. The people of Spain supported a new Republic with a left wing government. After years of social and political unrest, in the summer of 1936, several right-wing generals began a rebellion. What was planned as a swift seizure of power became a long and bitter civil war. Families were split apart, brothers killed their own brothers. You had to swear on the bible—or spit on it.”
There Be Dragons is a film in the Spanish Civil War that intersects the lives of two children who grew up to lead decidedly different lives: one as a sinner–the other as a Saint. The Saint in this case of this film is Josemaría Escrivá, who founded the controversial Catholic group Opus Dei. There Be Dragons did not prevail as an entirely “religious” film. Much of it focuses on the Spanish conflict that intermittently involved two men trying to make sense of it all.
Josemaría (Cox) survived an impoverished childhood, and survived the violence in Madrid–where revolutionist were shooting priests in the streets. Escrivá is forced to go into hiding while protected by family and those closest to him. While Josemaría struggled to continue to practice as Saint, his childhood friend, Manolo (Bently) embraces the revolution and experiences war with “unrequited” love–Manolo fell in love with Ildiko (Olga Kurylenko), a beautiful Hungarian revolutionary–in love with Oriol (Rodrigo Santoro), a charismatic revolutionary.
While the film bounced back and forth between the political and religious upheavals that occurred during the Spanish Civil War, there is a lost in translation somehow. Was the film set to be a film about a war or Saint; or an undistinctive love story?
What Joffé is successful at depicting are the tragedies of war–bitter misunderstandings between those who controlled the wealth and the impoverished who eventually, grew weary of unfair distribution of wealth and opportunities. Factor in military opportunists to ignite disparities and what’s portrayed onscreen is a visually stunning cataclysm of events forged by this conflict, however, the dialogue between a Saint and a charismatic revolutionist–not so much.
The film best represents only the heroics of the Spanish Civil War conflict by depicting the brutal realities of war sans the spiritual influence of Josemaría Escrivá. Was it the director’s intent to portray Escrivá as a hero of religious perseverance? Or the portrayal of a man trying to escape the brutal realities of war like everyone else. The embedded character Manolo should not have held a significant role in There Be Dragons because there just was not enough significance of events to tie him into the religious element of the intended story of Josemaría Escrivá, nor the Spanish Civil War. I guess it does not matter anymore for directors to replace potentially meaningful biographical inspiration, with lackadaisical romantics. Unfortunately, this is something we see too often in too many movies these days.
‘An epic portrayal of Faith, Forgiveness, and Redemption.’
Source Fox Home Entertainment