Movie Inspires a Forgiveness Movement

Joaquín Navarro-Valls Discusses «There Be Dragons»

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By Jesús Colina

ROME, MAY 4, ( Without intending to do so, the movie «There Be Dragons,» set for release in the U.S. this Friday, has set off a «movement of many people who feel moved to forgive,» says Joaquín Navarro-Valls.

Navarro-Valls, known as the long-time Vatican spokesman from 1984-2006, told ZENIT that the producers of the movie, which is set during the Spanish Civil War, «are daily receiving messages of thanks (some are on the Internet) from people who see the movie and decide to return home after years of separation, from spouses who are reconciled, from parents and children who have come to accept one another again, from others who return to God after a long time of being distanced from him.»

«There Be Dragons» is an historical drama, directed by Roland Joffé (“The Mission,” “The Killing Fields,” “City of Joy”), that evokes the youthful years of St. Josemaría Escrivá (1902-1975), Opus Dei’s founder (played by Charlie Cox), and his attitude to the Spanish Civil War.

Robert (played by Dougray Scott) is a journalist who, on investigating the figure of the founder of «the Work» to write an extensive report, discovers that his father, Manolo (played by Wes Bentley), with whom he has had no relationship for the past eight years, was a friend of Escrivá during his childhood.

From that moment, the plot leads the journalist and with him the public, to discover unimaginable surprises that would change his life forever.

On the eve of the U.S. premiere, ZENIT spoke with Navarro-Valls, who is investor in the movie, on his personal relationship with St. Josemaría Escrivá and why he became involved with «There Be Dragons.»

ZENIT: You lived for more than 20 years with the now Blessed John Paul II as his spokesperson and a close collaborator. You also lived for five years with St. Josemaría Escrivá, who is one of the characters in this movie. What common elements do you see between these two holy persons?

Navarro-Valls: From the human and psychological point of view, I would say that they shared a great sense of humor, which both maintained up to the moment of their deaths. Another characteristic was their capacity to take the initiative. They were able to foresee the needs of others and the needs of their time and did not simply react to the problems or challenges that arose in each moment.

On the spiritual plane, they both had a strong awareness of being in the hands of God and of fulfilling his will. St. Josemaría referred to himself as a «madman» for the love of God. Blessed John Paul II would lose track of time when he was praying before a tabernacle.

At the same time, however, Josemaría Escrivá and Karol Wojtyla were men of flesh and bones and very much men of their time. When we have known a saint, when our own life has crossed paths with theirs, I think that we have to modify the idea of holiness that appears in baroque art, which centers above all on the extraordinary moments. Such an idea lacks realism, consistency and proportion.

These two saints show us that holiness is joined to the material world and to everything that is human. I saw how they would make their own the joys and sufferings of the people around them, laughing and empathizing with them. It seems to me that a saint is always a realist, with the realism that allows one to see things with the eyes of God.

Josemaría Escrivá and Karol Wojtyla make us see that in our concrete and human world there is «a divine something» that is there waiting for anyone who knows how to find it, that every activity and every moment has its divine transcendence. I would also say that in these men we can find some shared theological views, such as an interest for what is known as the «theology of the laity.»

From the time he founded Opus Dei in 1928, Josemaría Escriva’s contribution to this has been immense. And I think that John Paul II, by going ahead with St. Josemaría’s canonization, also wanted to proclaim, in a most solemn way, this ideal of sanctity in ordinary life.

ZENIT: Why did you decide to become personally involved in «There be Dragons?»

Navarro-Valls: As you yourself mentioned, in my life I have lived with two saints. In a certain way, I feel in my conscience that I have a responsibility to transmit this unique experience, and I thought that the theater might be a suitable means.

In 2005, I collaborated with an Italian-American co-production about Karol Wojtyla, which the producer Lux Vide led from Italy. A little later, when Roland Joffé and the producers of «There be Dragons» spoke to me about the project, I found it attractive, and I decided to invest in this movie.

I found Joffé’s approach interesting. He constructs a story with parallel lives (as in «The Mission» and «The Killing Fields») in which Josemaría Escrivá is one of the central characters. The film does not present a saint’s life, but the complicated lives of several people deeply touched by a holy priest. The plot turns on the meaning of forgiveness, which has eternal significance in human history.

ZENIT: And what do you think of the results?

Navarro-Valls: I think what we have here is a film full of humanity and dramatic strength that draws in the viewer. You can see this in the box-office results in Spain, where it has been in the theaters for seven weeks now. Roland Joffé has returned to his best moments and has made a movie that is both moving and entertaining.

I think that it is a great story of passion that finds its resolution in the theme of forgiveness. The nucleus of the movie is the narration of an ambiguous character, Manolo Torres (Wes Bentley), who, at the end of his life, resolves the problems he has with his son. It is a very emotional moment in the film but, above all, it is the film’s moment of truth.

Without planning to do so, Roland Joffé has started a movement of many people who feel moved to forgive. The producers are daily receiving messages of thanks (some are on the Internet) from people who see the movie and decide to return home after years of separation, from spouses who are reconciled, from parents and children who have come to accept one another again, from others who return to God after a long time of being distanced from him. As an investor, these reactions have been wonderfully gratifying and represent an incalculable value, far superior to any financial return on the investment.

ZENIT: Some have seen «There Be Dragons» as a response to “The Da Vinci Code.»

Navarro-Valls: The film’s director and producers have said on numerous occasions that they do not see the film as a response to anyone, among other reasons, because they consider their movie to be at a higher level, both artistically as well as from the point of view of pure entertainment. The movie contains a great deal of visual and musical beauty, and there are many passions and emotions that will leave hardly anyone indifferent.

Nevertheless, while they do not consider themselves to be answering anyone, I think that «There Be Dragons» is in fact a powerful answer to «The Da Vinci Code,» because it expresses in a film the truth about questions related to the Christian message and the Church that were falsified in Dan Brown’s story.

I would be delighted if many of the fans of «The Da Vinci Code» saw and enjoyed «There Be Dragons.» They would discover a more complete and more real picture of the supernatural themes of God’s grace and holiness, which are the things to which every human being aspires. I am convinced that Mr. Brown himself would appreciate this story, if he were to see it.

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On ZENIT’s Web page:

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