But thanks to director Roland Joffé (The Mission and Killing Fields) the religious epic is back. Shot in Argentina and Spain, this film looks absolutely gorgeous. The production design, costumes, art direction, and cinematography are stunning. Did I say epic? Yes. There Be Dragons is epic in scope and design.
The film is complicated to say the least and encompasses every imaginable theme, including betrayal, hatred, love, friendship and forgiveness. Ultimately it’s an exploration of man’s attempt to find meaning in everyday existence. And, within that meaning, we find the nature of God at work. It’s an interesting topic considering Roland Joffé, who also wrote the screenplay, considers himself to be an agnostic. I’d say he’s a man definitely looking for answers to life’s perplexing questions.
There Be Dragons is told from two points of view in two different eras. In 1982 Robert, a Spanish journalist (Dougray Scott), is researching a book on the life of Father Josemarià Escrivà (Charlie Cox), who will soon be canonized as a Saint in the Roman Catholic Church. Robert discovers that his father, Manolo (Wes Bentley) with whom he has had an estranged relationship has a connection with Father Josemarià. Apparently, they both grew up in the same village and attended seminary together. However, as time went on, the two men grew apart and chose two vastly different paths.
Most of story plays out on the backdrop of the Spanish Civil War. Father Josemarià struggles to feed his flock while at the same time his life is in danger. Priests are being subject to execution at the hands of Republican forces that fight for the leftist government. Father Josemarià asks God to give him direction and purpose. God’s response will forever define his life. God also helps him to understand the importance of forgiveness, especially for those who are determined to do him wrong.
As I said, this is a complicated film with weighty subject material. For most Americans who know little or next to nothing about the Spanish Civil War, There Be Dragons may be a challenging film to watch. It’s unfamiliar territory for most of us except for die-hard history buffs.
Essentially, There Be Dragons is a film about reconciliation and forgiveness. When we forgive, we are the ones set free and allowed to fully embrace life.
The film has spun a movement of sorts. The filmmakers have received a lot of positive feedback about people forgiving past wrongs—sons forgiving fathers, husbands and wives who have been estranged for years reuniting, and all sorts of other relationships being mended.
There Be Dragons is now available on DVD and Blu-ray. This is a film worth checking out. As director Roland Joffé states, There Be Dragons “is a story about people trying to find meaning in their lives.” I think that’s something we all can relate to in our time as well as in the traumatic era of the 1930s.