Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Movie About St. Josemaria Escriva, Founder of Opus Dei

From Spero News, a review by Diane Thunder Schlosser:
There Be Dragons is creating quite a stir among moviegoers. The movie opened in Spain to a solid 300-theatre sellout crowd, and opens here in the United States the weekend of May 6th. (Check your local listings for specific theatres and dates.)

There Be Dragons is a powerful story of war, tragedy, love, forgiveness, and redemption. Set during the often overlooked horrors of the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s, it tells the story of two boyhood friends who enter the seminary, but when the war interrupts their lives, one leaves the seminary and chooses the life of a soldier though driven by jealousy and revenge. The other remains in the seminary and becomes a priest just when the provisional government of Spain is on the brink of murdering over 6,000 priests and religious. Each will struggle to find the power of forgiveness over the forces that tear their lives — and their friendship — apart.

Why the fascination with There Be Dragons? Because a self-proclaimed ‘wobbly’ agnostic and two-time Oscar nominee, Roland Joffe, (The Killing Fields and The Mission) writes and directs a movie that focuses our attention on faith of all things and the “turning points in our lives where we’re faced with…choices that are going to affect our future. . . and how hard it is to escape cycles of hatred, resentment, and violence.”
While Joffe may not be particularly religious, he presents a favorable portrait of Escriva. Schlosser asks:
When was the last time Hollywood produced a movie about a priest – a real priest?

Not a vampire-chasing vengeful priest. Not a sensationalized exorcist. Not a fictitious albino ‘monk’ or even a crooning Bing Crosby priest, but a real priest! This generation is privileged to know of a priest who lived in our lifetime and has been canonized in our lifetime, yet St. Josemaria is not just a saint for members of Opus Dei. He is not just a saint for the people of Spain. He has been raised to the high altars of the Church and canonized a saint for all of us as a model of heroic virtue for the 21st century.
Opus Dei, of course, is a conservative organization that Catholic liberals don’t like, but the director likes the organization, although not for political reasons. Quoting Joffe:
Josemaria also claimed that ordinary people were quite capable of being saints – and I think this kind of heroic forgiveness is what he was talking about . . . (it is) what offers room for hope. But the price is high: It takes a deep sense of what it is to be fully human . . . and, yes, heroic resolve not to be caught up in prevailing hatreds, but to fight them with unremitting love.
If all that sounds a bit syrupy in prose, don’t be put off. Film is different from prose, and often vastly more compelling.



In all fairness, we have to point out that the critics, so far, don’t much care for it. Whether that reflects on the movie, or the social values of the critics, is a question the reader will have to decide.

[Update: 5/13/11]

Although the critics continue to dislike the film, 81% of the audience members who have rated it on Rotten Tomatoes like it. Of course, there is a lot of self-selection here: the people who go to see it are those inclined to like it. But that means that if it sounds like the sort of movie you would like, you probably will.

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