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The Secret of Kells - What is this Remarkable Animated Feature?
The Academy Award nomination for The Secret of Kells hints at the film’s brilliance. That recognition came as a major surprise as the film was only seen by a handful of people in LA & NY when it qualified for a possible Oscar nomination. It did not open nationally until this March, but thanks to a grassroots campaign by people who have seen it, and I’m one of them, word is spreading that the film is quite extraordinary.
The Secret of Kells is a wonderful film experience. It has a unique look that might be called Irish or Celtic modern, and a compelling well-told story that is as charming as it is exciting. Moreover the story seems quite real as opposed to the elaborate tall tales Hollywood invents.
As for the look, imagine the flat abstractions of nature found in Celtic manuscripts and jewelry coming alive on the screen. The film has a design that sets it apart from art from other parts of the world. It is as distinctive looking as Persian miniatures or traditional Japanese block prints. The look is rich and varied including intricate backgrounds that are sometimes quite stunning.
Not only is the film’s bold look pleasing to the eyes, the captivating story will warm your heart. I certainly believed in the innocent boy’s quest to find the right berries in the dark forest. They are needed to create a magnificent color that will allow a great artist to complete a sacred manuscript. It is easy to believe this book is necessary for the preservation of the Celtic culture and that it has to be finished and protected from the invading hordes of barbarians from the north. What happens in the forest is the beginning of a fantastic experience.
The film’s simple plot and premise is based on facts; such illuminated medieval manuscripts do exist including the “Book of Kells” (Dublin, Trinity College Library, ca. 800 AD) and the hordes that are sacking villages in the film may be the Vikings that invaded Ireland. This plot also seems very real; most people know that people in the Holly Lands once made great efforts to preserve their culture and beliefs from invaders. The rediscovered Dead Sea Scrolls are an example of this.
The story may be fiction, but in your minds you care and emphasize with those who are living a simple peaceful life. Their innocence is a far cry from the complex worlds and plots that Hollywood creates in films like Princess and the Frog, Shrek or Monsters Vs Aliens. While the Hollywood features are often delightful entertainment, you probably leave feeling the film was a lot of fun, and rarely think about any greater meaning or message. On the other hand while you may leave Kells with a sense of joy, you may also leave feeling the movie gives you a realistic experience of what life was like in the Middle Ages and with a belief in the goodness of the peasants and monks who lived a simple agrarian life in their rural walled village.