.- Award-winning director Roland JoffÃ© discussed his upcoming film âThere Be Dragonsâ in a Thursday press conference. The film, set during the brutal Spanish Civil War and based on the life of St. Josemaria Escriva, can teach about love and forgiveness between families and enemies, JoffÃ© said.
The film begins with a young journalist, estranged from his military father Manolo, who conducts research on the life of Opus Dei founder and priest St. Josemaria Escriva. He discovers his father was a childhood friend of the future saint, and also uncovers family secrets.
The movie then flashes back to the Spanish Civil War. There, a young Manolo played by actor Wes Bentley becomes obsessed with the Hungarian revolutionary Ildiko, played by actress Olga Kurylenko. She rejects him in favor of the militia leader Oriol, moving Manolo to jealousy and betrayal.
At the same time Josemaria Escriva, played by Charlie Cox, grows in his life of faith.
JoffÃ©, director of "The Mission" and "The Killing Fields," explained to the Thursday press conference that he had initially intended to decline âThere Be Dragons.â While writing his âthank you, but noâ letter, JoffÃ© explained, he watched a DVD of St. Josemaria sent by one of the producers. At one point in the DVD, a girl told St. Josemaria about her intent to convert to Catholicism and the problems it could cause with her Jewish parents. To this, the priest emphasized the necessity for her to honor her parents as âabsolutely close to God.â
It was such a âwarm reply,â JoffÃ© said, that he sketched a dramatic scene of a similar event and was âhooked.â He then accepted the offer to direct the film.
According to JoffÃ©, St. Josemaria âsaw that saintliness didnât require withdrawal into religious order or require one to become a priest. Saintly acts could be performed by ordinary people in their everyday lives, which was a radical idea.â
This idea is open to so many people, JoffÃ© said, because it encourages a spiritual relationship with God in âvery simple things,â in cooking a meal, being with oneâs family, or even having a fight.
This provided an insight for the movie, which faced the difficulty of dramatizing a saintâs life. JoffÃ© said he could portray ordinary people trapped in war in an âextraordinary and touching way.â
Redemption and forgiveness
JoffÃ© added that Christian redemption is a major theme of the movie. Christianity is based on love and forgiveness, and redemption âcanât come without love.â
Describing the character Manolo as the âantithesisâ of Josemaria, the director reported that he commits a horrible act but must try to come to terms with it.
The director also noted the importance of forgiveness for a community and for Christianity.
âNobody in Christianity is outside. Youâre constantly offered the chance to arrive at the point to understand and accept redemptionâ¦ There is no âendâ to this journey, itâs a continuing one in which each person is finding their own route. But it is a journey, and even your failure is part of that.â
Whole vs. divided
The director JoffÃ© further explained the movie, naming as another of its themes the difference between a whole and a divided character.
The character Manolo is pulled in different directions, he explained, and is in some ways a Judas figure. However, the final action between him and Ildiko is a âsaintly actâ that people may find âshocking.â
War and Reconciliation
Noting the troubled legacy of the Spanish Civil War, JoffÃ© said he hoped Spanish viewers will come to see the âcomplexity in human relationshipsâ which is not often included in history.
âTake the hatred away,â he exhorted. âLove and affection has to stay, but canât be allowed to ossify into ideological rigidities.
âI would be the proudest man in the world if only 10 percent came out of the cinema thinking âreconciliation matters.ââ
The world audience for âThere Be Dragons,â JoffÃ© said, can find a common touchstone in the recognition that civil war is a metaphor for the family.
âMost families are in civil wars,â he claimed. âYou can look at life as a metaphor for mistrust and fear, or as an opportunity for loveâ¦ Itâs a choice, and in making that decision you become free. You do not become free when you hate. The weird thing is when you really love, you feel it like a breath of freedom, you think âOh my God, Iâve chosen this, and itâs beautifulâ.â
The $35 million film was shot in Argentina and Sepulveda, Spain. Many individual investors were approached by the producers and invested large and small sums. Some investors were members of Opus Dei, while Spanish television money also helped fund the project.
âThere Be Dragonsâ will be released sometime in 2010. Its website is at http://www.therebedragonsfilm.com/