27 April 2011 | vincent-bullock
An exploration of man's inner demons
Roland Joffé did not disappoint me with this film. I am a first generation spaniard and I find Joffé's portrayal of the Civil War honest and fair. The story is not engulfed by facts of history, it takes great care in exploring the mysteries of the characters' backgrounds.
On one side we have the historical figure of Jose Maria Escribar, tormented in his search for God and holding firmly to his ideals while submerged in a world of hatred and chaos. On the other Manolo, haunted by vengeance and confusion; fighting without a cause and desperately searching for something he can believe him, an answer to his inner chaos. Finally, Roberto, son of Manolo, must slowly unveil the terrible secrets his father has hidden within him and come to terms with finding out who the man that brought him up was.
The film explores the senseless nature of war and its consequences, the spiral of hatred that slowly engulfs men, the repentance for terrible mistakes and the struggle to forgive them. Each character follows a path filled with dilemmas and suffering at the end of which they must fight themselves and their dragons.
Technicalwise, the film is faultless. There is great care in every scene and as I can testify Joffé has done his homework. The detail to which the history and scenery of 1937 Spain has been recreated is astounding. Even so, the story talks about people, about soldiers; never about leaders or politicians. The film captures the essence of human conflict in its most raw form.
Do not expect an action packed war film. For those who have interest in the roots of Opus Dei, this film will not help you there. It deals with the repercussions of war and strife in people, it does not deal with the grander scale of things.
If nothing else this film will reassure you that war is and always will be a futile tragedy, all victories are Pyrrhic and the aftermath leaves bitter resentment and pain. An interesting perspective in this film is that of the many bystanders who are forced to choose the side they support and so they must be separated from loved ones forever. When a few want war, the rest have no say. As long as the hatred of so few is not buried, war will rise once more.
There Be Dragons is a deeply personal and spiritual film. It is very intense and reflects unapologetically the worst side of humanity. It is true to the title, where this film takes you, there be dragons.