By now you may have figured out that one of my favorite things to do on this site is to turn people onto whatever I’m digging currently. What can I say, when I love something I feel compelled to share. Today what I have fallen in love with is a little film called The Secret of Kells.
In many ways this seems like the little film that could. Coming from a little start-up animation studio in Ireland the film quickly gained buzz from various international film festival and was eventually nominated for Best Animated Feature at the Academy Awards.
The story of The Secret of Kells centers around a young monk named Brendan who lives in medieval Ireland in the Abby of Kells. This is a time of great stress in Ireland with the threat of attack from Vikings being an ever present and looming dread. Brendan, who is an aspiring illuminator, becomes enamored when Brother Aidan arrives in Kells bearing with him the unfinished Book of Iona (later renamed the Book of Kells). Aidan quickly becomes a mentor for the aspiring artist and his influence (along with a playful faerie named Aisling) eventually leads Brendan to butt heads with the Abbot, who is both Brendan’s guardian and uncle.
The first thing that struck me about The Secret of Kells was how stunningly beautiful it was. The film’s art style is inspired directly by the historical Book of Kells. The result is an amazing visual treat bursting with life. Each frame seems to have been meticulously detailed but the real magic comes when these images are put in motion. Taking a cue from its artistic influence (which was made in a time before there was such a thing as depth of field) plays with framing, depth, and movement that gives the visual impression of a manuscript coming to life.
This visual tour-de-force is then coupled with a tale that can best be described as exemplifying the character and personality of Ireland. The story blends seamlessly between the mysticism of ancient Ireland and the faith later embraced. Furthermore, the spirit of these characters shines through here. They are playful and jovial while also bearing hardship with stoic determination. They are lovers of knowledge while never losing the childlike wonder of the world around them. In a way the personify the Irish spirit that I have always found absolutely fascinating and enamoring.
Perhaps that fascination makes me a bit biased towards this sort of thing but I think even without it this would be a magical piece of artistic film-making fully worthy of the accolades it has received. As such, The Secret of Kells earns my recommendation. Now go and check it out and let me know what you think.