There Be Dragons depicts the childhood and young man years of Manolo, a man in his sunset years whose path in life while he was growing up crossed that of the late Josemaria Escriva, founder of Opus Deii. Part of the story is told in the form of flashbacks, as Manolo reveals things to his son in his old age which he had previously never discussed with him. Manolo’s son, a journalist and writer, on assignment to produce a book about the life of Josemaria Escriva because of the public attention being called to him during his canonization process, finds his professional interest in Escriva becoming personal after an older priest revealed an association between himself, Manolo, and Escriva during his seminary days, Manolo having entered the seminary to please his mother, but having left after a year, not having been “priest material”. One covert message this movie sends is the importance of home environment on a person’s character development: though the factory foreman who inculcates Josemaria with the lesson of the chocolate bean revealing its good tastes only after having had care and hard work applied to it is Jewish, he nevertheless is portrayed as a putative mentor and a positive influence. Josemaria grows up in a family in which devout Catholicism and an ideal of caring for others is the “culture” of this microsociety. Manolo, on the other hand, is pushed and pulled in different directions: his mother is devout, but his father overtly seeks to instill more worldly values and his own “me-first” and “look out for number one” mentality. By Manolo’s early adulthood, he succeeds, though he has to beat Manolo with a switch when he tries to associate with former boyhood pal Josemaria after Josemaria’s father loses his chocolate factory and becomes bankrupt. Suddenly, a socially acceptable playmate from nearly the same socioeconomic strata becomes a socioeconomic pariah. Manolo embarks on the path to what seems to be worldly success, while Josemaria, having seen a set of bare footprints in the snow in front of his house, sees a religious message therein: to follow in spirit the monk or pauper who made those footprints. They cross paths again, as aforementioned, in the seminary.
When Manolo’s father dies due to a stroke, for which Manolo blames a Communist-organized labor movement which stages a strike at his father’s business, Josemaria, having attained the priesthood, attempts to offer an olive branch, but is unsuccessful, because he also uses the visit to his boyhood friend to proselytize, and he is seen strictly in his role as a priest, rather than as a friend, and his gesture of giving Manolo a rosary is received with contempt, rather than seen as the attempt to bridge the gap between them Josemaria surely intended it to be.
During the period of time associated with the impending canonization and his son’s biography of Josemaria, Manolo’s end-of-life issues prod him into discussing with his son his acquaintance with Escriva and his role in the Spanish Civil War.
The title “Here Be Dragons” alludes to events in Manolo’s formative years associated with Josemaria Escriva’s life as well as secrets connected with his participation on more than one side in the Spanish Civil War in addition the deep and dark recesses of the rest of humankind’s character which influenced the course of world events, as well as to literal dragons, which, reportedly, Josemaria’s nanny believed in. Opus Deii’s emergence was posited as an antidote to the individual and collective id; Josemaria’s inspiration is seen as a philosophical and psychedelic (without drugs) perception of a beautiful spring day in which he saw the material world; contrary to the traditional eschatology of the Catholic Church; as a storehouse of good things, and the mundane interactions between laypeople as well as clergy as the potential generator of love and goodness and purveyor of Christian values in society, an ideology initially received with suspicion as “Protestant” by the bishop to whom Escriva initially presented his idea of an institute of laypeople of both sexes, along with clergy and religious, living separately, but working together.
“It was the general view at the time that only those called to contemplative life (priests, monks, nuns) could be holy; for the lay people, holiness was almost beyond them. Josemaria struggled hard to get this message to be accepted within the Church; in fact there is a person who told Josemaria that his idea was way ahead of its time.”(Just to answer your last Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Nov. 08, 2011.)
Here Be Dragons is limited in view to the time and circumstances of the Spanish Civil War and before; it puts forth a youthful and flattering depiction of Josemaria as an impossibly tolerant, forgiving, and restrained figure, when people who dealt with him on a regular basis in his later years can paint a picture of a man who showed a bad temper and used profanity in the presence of his associates.
Thus, how accurate a portrayal of Josemaria’s early life this movie presents is unknown at best, dubious at worst. One can say this is a fictionalized, flattering account of the growth and maturation of both the man and the movement.
The same goes for the recounting of the time Josemaria spent in hiding in a mental institution prior to escaping Spain as it became increasingly controlled by anti-clerical forces.

n an interview Roland Joffe, the film’s director, he said that in the film there’s a moment when Josemaria seems to lose faith, when God seems silent amidst all the hatred. At that point he meets a girl in Dr Suils’ asylum who says to him, ‘He doesn’t speak to you, does he?’
There is no historical evidence that St Josemaria met a young girl like “Aline” during his refuge in the asylum. A. Vazquez de Prada says in his biography that as well as the sick people, there was a group of other refugees, and St Josemaria tried to help them with his pastoral ministry. See “1936-1937: First stages of the civil war. Situation of Opus Dei”, under the heading “In Dr. Suils’s Asylum for the Mentally Ill”.
This scene in the film may show an aspect of St Josemaria’s faith amidst the great interior trials he experienced at that stage in his life. He couldn’t claim a direct, personal relationship with God. He discovered God’s providence speaking to him through events.
In the same interview Joffé said that in a way, St Josemaria, who used metaphors a lot, sees that woman (Aline) as a representation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Because if we stand at the foot of the Cross, what is interesting is that we focus not only, obviously, on the Crucified Christ, but on the Mother, and wonder what she feels, try to empathize with her feelings, when her Son, whom she brought up, whom she loves, is nailed to a cross in front of her.


Though Escriva is seen in the movie engaging in subterfuge to carry out the pastoral duties of a priest and to live a spiritual life at a time when armed anti-clerical elements threaten his life at every turn (at one time, even attempting to hear confessions on a park bench at a zoo); near the conclusion of the movie, he is seen to celebrate a traditional Tridentine Mass facing a large open window…from which the anti-clerical paramilitaries see him, force themselves into the building, and intimidate the other worshipers while he hides in a concealed panic room type space. Though dramatic, if such a thing occurred, it was downright stupid.
Escriva is shown to engage in mortification of the flesh in the form of self-flagellation at one time in the movie. This is divorced from its context: the movie does not specify how often and under what circumstances he normally did this; although such practices among Catholics were much more common and normative within the context of the times and the culture. The movie concludes with a happy ending for both Escriva and his movement: Josemaria escapes Spain and its political unrest (and, in fact, lives to old age and dies what is most likely a natural death in the 1970s); Opus Deii grows to a movement of influence and wealth within his lifetime (and even more so after his death).
The directions the movement would take in the future, and the financial malfeasance which would characterize the actions of some of its prominent members are left unexplored, as the movie ends well before these things would become known.
Though there is much good in the circumscribed and limited portrayal of persons and events within this movie, like the real-life “rushed through” hurried canonization of its central figure, the movie left out an important element: the devil’s advocate.

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One Response to “There Be Dragons”

  1. Mallorca

    06. Jan, 2017

    Very good movie about the investigations of José María Escriva

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