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There Be Dragons

Even saints have a past. And in Roland Joffe’s new movie, There Be Dragons, he attempts to outline the past of one of the most controversial saints of the twentieth century, Josemaria Escriva, founder of Opus Dei. Yes, the one parodied in The Da-Vinci Code.

It’s an epic film, set in Spain and revolving around the Spanish Civil War (time to get our history groove on!). A modern-day journalist, Robert, is trying to make up with his dying father, Manolo who fought in the war. Then he discovers that his father was a childhood friend of Josemaria who is, at the time, being considered for sainthood. Drum roll, please!

I’ve only seen previews and heard about the movie on the grapevine. It hasn’t begun showing in the cinemas here yet (I hear they’ve begun previewing though) even though it was released May 6th. But I can gather from the trailer that

  • There is a beautiful girl involved (as always).
  • Manolo did something quite evil.
  • Josemaria was quite brave, reaffirming his identity as a priest in times when it was dangerous to even be Catholic.

Most interesting of all is that the director and producer, Roland Joffe, is agnostic. On recent questioning though, he admits to being more open to the “God question”. Brave of him to say so at a time when it seems fashionable to be atheist or agnostic.

On whether Opus Dei influenced the movie, or (as was rumoured) funded it, he replied in the negative. Joffé initially turned down the offer to work as the film’s director. “But he said he reconsidered after he saw a video of Escrivá answering a question from a Jewish girl who wanted to convert to Catholicism. Escrivá told her that she should not convert, because it would be disrespectful to her parents; she was a minor and her parents did not approve of the idea . ‘I thought this was so open-minded,’ Mr. Joffé said.”At that point, Joffé signed on to direct, with the condition of writing a new screenplay from scratch and becoming a producer.

He emphasized that Christianity is about love and that the teaching of St. Josemaria “encourages a spiritual relationship with God in ‘very simple things,’ in cooking a meal, being with one’s family, or even having a fight.” There should be complete unity in life; one’s Christianity should not end as we leave church on Sunday.

This movie appeals to me on a number of levels. First, hopefully a deeper understanding of the Fascist movement and the Spanish Civil War. The only work of fiction on that war that I know of is Hemingway’s For Whom The Bell Tolls. And that one left me so very unhappy.

Secondly, even though he insists that it’s not “a reply to the Da-Vinci Code”, I’m really keen to see how ‘an agnostic’ interprets the Opus Dei Organization and its founder.

Three, this seems to be the year of sequels to sequels (Pirates of the Caribbean 4? I love Johnny Depp, but really). A fresh, brand-new story would be nice.

Four, I’m Christian. Anything that attempts to turn the eyes of humanity back to their Creator and the values He has instilled in us, of love, sacrifice and hope, is always a good thing.

You’ll be wondering about the title. I heard that in times past, map-makers would mark danger or uncharted territory with the words, ’Hic sunt dracones’ translated, Here There Be Dragons, to warn travelers. And this movie aims to explores new themes: hatred, guilt and forgiveness. Hollywood’s finally getting its act together. Always a cause for celebration.


Charlie Cox as Josemaria Escriva
Wes Bentley as Manolo
Dougray Scott as Robert
Olga Kurylenko as Ildiko

Do me a favour, okay? When next you go to the cinemas, please ask them when they’ll start showing this movie and then give me a heads up. Thanks!


  1. Ovie says

    I hope this film just end up being a social document, (not historical) unlike ‘potemkin’. From ur description of the theme and setting there is a reminder of the atrocities by Germany’s Condor Legion in the service of Franco’s fascist rebel forces during the Spanish Civil War. Unless some factions don’t go back to genesis or unlock soever symbolism or close their ears to the dense rhythm this movie has to play. Forgive my prejudices!
    Me too, i go see d movie, there be dragons!

  2. mercy says

    “Brave of him to say so at a time when it seems fashionable to be atheist or agnostic.”
    that was my favourite phrase of all.

  3. I love the way you write. I have spent time reading some of your post this evening while almost forgetting about the Barca/Man. U match that I had dutifully planned to watch. “To Keep One’s Head When Everyone Loses Theirs” is my favorite yet. I must say, without any iota of vain flattery, I am highly impressed by your art. You inspire me even more as I am but one who’s desperately trying to make a writer out of his humble self. Just thought you should know.

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