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‘Dragons’ leaves questions hanging

By Sister Helena Burns, FSP | Contributor
Sunday, May 8, 2011

There Be Dragons” is mainly about the Spanish Civil War (1936- 1939). Although St. Josemaria Escriva is a character, the film is not about him or the personal prelature he founded, Opus Dei.

The acting is pretty captivating, the art direction superb, the cinematography solid, the dialogue good, but the story has several major problems that break several of the most basic rudiments of filmmaking. I have a few questions.

First, who is the main character? It should be the character we are introduced to in the first act, who begins narrating the story. This narrator is a middle-aged Spaniard writing a book about St. Josemaria.

Upon the narrator discovering that his father — who fought in the Spanish Civil War — actually knew the saint, the movie suddenly switches off to the father narrating the flashback story of his association with Escriva. But the story of Escriva is quickly eclipsed by the far more exciting story of the war, and the writer’s father’s role as a spy for the Fascists unfolds.

The author of the Escriva biography drops out of the film for almost the entire second act, then reappears at the very end when a big revelation takes place. But we are not interested in this character or his problems because we have not seen him for the entire movie.

The film-Escriva is beloved, cheerful, unflagging and always at his priestly ministry, no matter the cost. He is pastoral and gives good spiritual advice. However, we do not see him struggle, except for a few tears when a priest-friend is murdered.

Second, who is the bad guy? We are given such logical motivations for all persons and sides in the war, that any real venom is completely removed.

Third, what is the takeaway? What did we experience or learn from watching “Dragons”? Very little.

Fourth, what is the theme? We know at the end that it was intended to be forgiveness. But this theme did not permeate the rest of the movie.

We did not even know there was anything for the author to forgive until the big revelation.

Hopefully, “Dragons” will inspire audiences to learn more about St. Josemaria, Opus Dei and the Spanish Civil War. It could be a great discussion starter if Opus Dei members and those versed in this segment of history would lead a forum after viewing. And there will always be room in the future for a much more indepth film(s).