Friday, March 2, 2012

Friday Feature: There Be Dragons

When Chari and I planned this blog, one regular feature we planned to have was going to be called something like "Friday Family Feature" and was going to be about movies we watched with our family.

We weren't going to write a review, just share what we were watching and maybe some of our reactions.

So I'm launching the feature with There Be Dragons.

It is now available to rent -- probably on Netflix, but my family rented it at our local Redbox.  Perhaps some of you have already seen it?  I chose the Spanish version of the cover because I thought it looked cooler than the American version. 

What we thought, in a nutshell:

Acting:  Competent to Excellent   -- Derek Jacobi and Charles Dance had supporting roles and the main characters were actors I hadn't previously seen in movies (not that this says too much, because I don't watch very many movies!)
Filming:  Finely done, great visuals.

This review sort of sums up what I thought about it as a film.  Though I thought it worked better than what most of the reviews said about it.

It had a sort of distant, montage-mosaic feeling, because a lot of the story was told in backflashes.  It totally makes sense in light of what the story was about -- digging into the unexplored territory of the past.   It had a bit of the confessional  format of Amadeus with the contrast between the two main characters but with a ambiguous mixture of exterior and interior conflict  rather than the sparkle and weirdness of Amadeus.     What the film-maker was trying to do struck me as very ambitious and complex, and so I thought that the issues the reviewers noticed stemmed from the limitations of movie format.   Plus, I thought the director was too experienced with pain and remorse to settle for a crashing resolution, so it seemed to me that many themes were brought in but only partially resolved. 

The title seems to bring that out since "Hic Sunt Dracones" is what the mapmakers used to write on the unexplored outskirts of known territories where anything could take place. 

All that being said, I think the movie is very well worth watching with your teenage children.    For one thing, here is a wholesome movie portrayal of a modern saint.    I think actor Charlie Cox must have studied film of the real Josemaria Escriva because he manages to get across his quirky, down to earth mixture of humor and frankness and plain practical fortitude. 

After we watched the movie, my husband Kevin went to YouTube and showed us this 4 part video of  Josemaria Escriva answering questions.  Kevin said he had seen it several years ago and especially valued the part (I think it was in Part 2) where a mother of a special needs 7 year old asks what the saint has to say to parents of children who have medical or developmental problems.    Escriva says quickly and plainly that they should thank God, for these parents have been particularly chosen by God and are blessed!  It is what Kevin and I had thought about having Aidan in our lives so I think Kevin felt that the saint was talking directly to him! 

 For another thing, the movie evokes the brutality and grimness of a war where no side is the "good one" -- a war between Communists and Fascists, no less!  -- but it doesn't go into shocking detail.    There are plenty of battle scenes and some blood and on-screen killing, which is why the movie has a PG13 rating, but it is far from being as shocking as it could be given the topic of the Spanish Civil War. 

A couple of days after we watched the movie, I discussed it with my 16 year old and he said he had particularly noticed  this aspect of it, the grimness of a war where both sides are violent and unbalanced in their views.   Since my son has been thinking a lot about morality in crisis situations -- something that I think lots of teenagers are interested in -- this gave him new input for his thinking.   In the movie, Escriva speaks to this by saying that it is up to the individual person to do what is right -- certainly a key part of his general message to the world, and the movie shows him living this out.   I hope that attitude will be an influence on my sons as they face their own battlefields in life -- Escriva certainly emphasizes how ordinary individuals doing humble, ordinary things are just as much part of God's work as those in the foreground of history. 

I had never seen Josemaria Escriva on video before, only read some of his writings, and so I was very glad to get a better picture of what he was like personally.   His writings often sounded severe to me, and I usually felt a bit discouraged and bewildered after reading them, even though I saw that the substance was good.  But after seeing the YouTube conversation with the real saint and the movie portrayal of the younger Escriva, I got a sense that what I had taken for severity was more a kind of good-humored bluntness.  

At the Opus Dei site you can subscribe by email and get daily messages from Escriva's writings.  I did this a couple of Lents ago but unsubbed because of the previously mentioned feelings of discouragement.  But after watching the movie I resubbed and am finding the messages very timely and helpful.     For example, today's message said that God calls each of us to holiness and the way to holiness is to pray to God and tell Him what is in your heart.   I especially needed that reminder because of a few things going on in my life right now that made me troubled and discouraged.

Finally, I wanted to mention a coincidence!  In January, inspired by Chari's Heart's Haven Family Patrons of 2012,  I picked out saints for each member of my family thinking that I could particularly seek the intercession of those saints for those particular family members.   I didn't publish it, but I put it in a document where I promptly forgot about it.  Today I just happened to find the document and find that the saint I chose for my husband was St Josemaria Escriva!  That seems rather remarkable to me especially since it turns out that my husband, unbeknownst to me, had had this previous connection with the saint through watching the video of conversations.  So thank you dear Lord and St Josemaria for giving me a new friend/saint to invoke when I am petitioning : ). 

Well, I certainly hope my next movie post will be somewhat shorter and less rambling, but I wanted to share our reactions to the movie (hopefully without any major spoilers...)

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