Movie Name: The Secret of Kells
Studio: Celluloid Dreams
Release Date(s): February 11, 2009 (Berlin/France)
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Vikings are raiding Ireland and its people are fearful. Abbot Cellach has decided to protect his people at the Abbey of Kells by building a great wall in preparation for the next attack. His nephew Brendan has joined in helping the Aidan of Iona in making the Book of Iona as the Vikings close in. When Brendan learns Aiden is going blind, he steps in to help the bookmaker in collecting the ingredients for ink and writing the book. In the process he befriends a wood spirit named Aisling and seeks out the Eye of Collum-Cille which is needed for the Book of Iona. Now, the Vikings are coming putting Brendan is in conflict with his uncle, and Brendan realizes that saving the Book of Iona is the most important thing he can do.
Directed by Tomm Moore, The Secret of Kells was positively received. The movie had a limited release in the United States (only thirty-seven screens) but was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature (losing to Pixar’s Up).
The Secret of Kells is visually stunning. The story is based upon the Book of Kells (or the Book of Columba) which was an illustrated version of the Gospels created in Ireland around 800 A.D. The book is considered a national treasure by the Irish.
The story around this book isn’t really known, and the movie fashions a tale of how it came to be. The director liked the films The Princess and the Cobbler and Mulan and decided to apply an Irish style to the original art. The effect is great. It has an old world style (similar to some of the imagery in the Book of Kells), but the flat imagery has a real dimensional movement to it. In its simplicity, the art really comes alive. It kind of reminds me of the opening art for 1978’s Watership Down.
For someone not familiar with the story and someone who doesn’t know a lot about Irish history, The Secret of Kells was a bit hard to follow. It blends reality (some of the events leading up to the book’s creation) with fiction (spirit creatures like Aisling). It did peak my curiosity enough that I did some follow-up research on the Book of Kells and found it all very interesting, so that is a good sign of a strong movie.
The Secret of Kells is not for everyone. Children will probably identify with Brendan, but might have difficulty getting into the art with its throwback style. It does have some pretty violent imagery at the end, but most of it is implied rather than direct. I enjoyed this film and at a short running time it isn’t too bad, but I wanted to like the story more with the impressive visuals.
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