The Secret of Kells is an Oscar-nominated, independent, mainly Irish animated film that is highly unique in its animation, drawing from ancient Celtic art and scriptural illuminations. To be honest, the animation takes some getting used to. I didn’t care for it at first, but, within 20 minutes or so, I grew accustomed to it and could better appreciate its detailed beauty. My VC tends to dislike most non-Disney/Dreamworks animations, like this one, viewing them as inferior and often too symbolic, but I don’t think it’s inferior at all, just different. In certain brief scenes that are given a moment of stillness, the hand-drawn animation looks like an ancient work of art.
As far as the story, there’s the oft-used cliché of the overly stern authority figure squelching the young protagonist’s imagination and eventually realizing his mistake (seriously, too many animated movies include this in their plots). Yet the story as a whole is quite fascinating with its fusion of beings from Celtic paganism and the religious monks who kept knowledge alive through the Dark Ages. While some of the references don’t make sense to a casual viewer, the filmmakers’ use of historical tidbits is actually quite clever (Crom Cruach was an ancient god worshiped with human sacrifice and ousted by St. Patrick; an Aisling is a type of poem involving a Faerie encounter; Pangur Ban was a white cat to which an unknown 9th century monk dedicated a poem in the margin of his manuscript).
As with Rise of the Guardians, however, The Secret of Kells seems to be avoiding any mention of God or the actual contents of the Book of Kells, the Gospels. There are some welcome scenes of generic prayer and talk of how strong the monks’ faith is, but these religious aspects have little substance. The latter half is also surprisingly dark, killing off nearly every minor character (offscreen), and the last scenes are touching, but not quite as grand and epically bittersweet as it tries to be. Overall, it’s certainly a film worth watching, one that uniquely presents the monks whose work helped to preserve light in darkness.
Best line: (Brendan) “You can’t find out everything from books, you know.” (Brother Aidan) “I think I read that once.”Artistry: 7 Characters/Actors: 4 Entertainment: 5 Visual Effects: 7 Originality: 5 Watchability: 4 Other (animation takes getting used to): -2 TOTAL: 30 out of 60
Tomorrow: #313: War of the Worlds (2005)
© 2014 S. G. Liput