The Frailty of Life

 There Be Dragons (DVD)
Stars: Wes Bentley, Dougray Scott, Charlie Cox, Olga Kurylenko, Rodrigo Santoro and Derek Jacobi
Director/Scriptwriter: Roland Joffe’
Cinematography: Gabriel Beristain
Samuel Goldwyn Films
Rating: PG 13 for war violence
Running Length: 122 minutes
DVD extras: interview with Wes Bentley and deleted scenes

Director/scriptwriter Roland Joffe’s film on Spanish Civil War and how it effects civilians and clergy is now on DVD. Told through flashbacks between the 1930’s and 40-plus years later, we see that secrets are still secrets and guilt can consume a person. The story centers on two boys who are friends, one wealthy and one middle class. The wealthy one, Josemaria Escriva (Charlie Cox)  becomes a priest while the middle class one Manolo Torres (Wes Bentley) becomes a soldier. One is for peace and the other for Revolution. Their paths cross again and again with some collateral damage.
The story begins in contemporary Spain where a young man, Robert (Dougray Scott) wants to interview his dying father about the father’s past as a freedom fighter. What he learns is quite a jolt and he decides to revisit the area where his father grew up to find answers. Flashback to a small Spanish town where Josemaria Escriva’s (Charlie Cox) family is wealthy and Manolo Torres’ (Wes Bentley) family is middle class. Torres’ father’s business is in a downward spiral and Wes eventually ends up as a spy/revolutionary in the uprising that is stirring the poor and middle class. In the meantime, Escriva decides to become a priest and takes to the poor life effectively. He doesn't always agree with the Catholic church’s way of doing things and wants to start his own Order, Opus Dei (think commune here) and that goes against his superiors. As war looms closer to the church, Escriva finds himself in peril and must go into hiding from the government. He has to flee the country or be killed. Manolo (still a spy)  has found a Hungarian girl he likes, another revolutionary (Olga Kurylenko), but she really likes their leader, Rodrigo Santoro. Everyone’s paths are slowly approaching each other and you just know it will be not agreeable for them. This amidst bombings, raids, harsh living conditions and flashbacks as Robert gets closer to the truth.
This film is not another classic "Mission" from Roland Joffe'.  But, it is a well put-together film of war, betrayal, revenge, class differences and the influence of the Church. Acting in “There Be Dragons” is well done, though Wes Bentley has such a glower it prevents the audience from relating to him. Charlie Cox plays meek well, and Olga Kurylenko and Rodrigo Santoro are fine as firebrands in warfare. Battle scenes are realistic, but it is the atmosphere of this time in Spain’s history that is well captured. The darkened, richly decorated rooms, rocky slopes for battle, class distinctions and the opposition within the Church for change that bring focus to the story. Ultimately, we see that revenge as a youth may mellow as a adult, and one’s ideas of founding an Order may change under different circumstances. Actually, Josemaria Escriva is now a saint. Forces set in motion cannot be stopped and guilt and secrets are a consuming burden. One way to alleviate guilt is to confess to the Church you had abandoned. Can it be done? Life comes full circle sometimes.
Copyright 2012 Marie Asner