Movies: The Secret of Kells * * * *
(PG, general release)
Friday March 06 2009
The good people at Cartoon Saloon spent a number of years developing and making this ambitous full-length Irish animation that attempts to knit the creation of the Book of Kells into a story about a young boy's voyage of self-discovery. Overall, it succeeds quite magnificently, and it's a real and rare pleasure to watch an ambitious and classy animation skilfully execute a distinctively Irish theme. The story revolves around the fortified Monastery of Kells in the ninth century, as the monks hear increasingly terrifying news of the approaching Vikings.
Twelve-year-old Brendan (Evan McGuire) is apprentice to his fearsome uncle, Cellach (Brendan Gleeson), the monastery's Abbot. Brendan is a curious young boy, but Cellach has no time for his frivolities and will not let him wander in the woods outside the settlement. However, their ordered life is shaken up by the arrival of the celebrated master illuminator, Brother Aidan (Mick Lally).
Aidan brings with him an extraordinary book he is trying to finish, and begins to initiate Brendan into the mysteries of his art, much to the Abbot's displeasure. And Brendan finds himself in big trouble when he sneaks off to the forsest looking for ink berries, and meets a mischievious fairy.
The Secret of Kells spirits you back to the early Irish stories of your childhood. It's quite beautifully animated, and in colourfully imaginative sequences the very pages of the Book of Kells spring gloriously to life.
The story is sweet and dark in equal parts, and the fearsome bulky Vikings might be a bit much for the very young, but anyone else is bound to enjoy it.
- Paul Whitington