A Film Review: ‘The Secret of Kells’


The Secret of Kells, directed by Tomm Moore and Nora Twomey, art directed by Ross Stewart (Cartoon Saloon), animated, 76 minutes.
A 2010 Oscar® nominee for best animated feature, The Secret of Kells introduces us to Brendan, a 12-year-old Irish boy, who has spent his young life living among monks in an abbey. He is the nephew of Abbott Cellach, a disciplinarian who is creating a fortress of high walls around the abbey as defense against an inevitable attach by Viking hordes.

Brendan begins the film on a wild goose chase, literally, so five feathers can be plucked for quills used by monks in the scriptorium, where manuscripts are copied. The monks, tired from the chase for feathers, begin talking of a magical Book of Iona created by a wise sage, Brother Aidan. “To gaze upon the book is to gaze upon heaven itself,” a monk says. And before we know it, a guest who appears at the abbey is none other than Brother Aidan. Brendan is swept up in admiration after having just learned of his acclaim.

Brother Aidan befriends Brendan by encouraging him to use his imagination and helping him to discover his hidden talents as an illustrator. The experience also frees Brendan’s inner desire to explore his universe, to explore the nearby forest, beyond any point he had ever ventured.

It is in the forest where the captivating art direction of this film truly shines. Brendan is spellbound by the mystery, by the beauty, of this unknown realm, guided by Aisling, at first a wispy girl, later we learn she is a fairy and shapeshifter who runs as a white wolf at the end of the film. She guides Brendan to the cave of the dark one, a pagan god, and in this dangerous darkness, Brendan intuitively find the crystal he seeks, a magical stone that once allowed Brother Aidan to create the Book of Iona.

Once the crystal is retrieved, we journey along with Brendan as he creates the Book of Kells. We fly into the illustrations, triskelions now alive, and we become one with nature. The animations effectively play with movement, interconnection and dimension, and the film’s soundtrack featuring the brilliant music of one of Ireland’s most innovative bands, Kila, is haunting at times.

It is no surprise that The Secret of Kells was nominated for an Academy Award®. Its quality – and soul – offers viewers an opportunity to journey themselves to a deep source within, arising with gifts kept hidden so we can discover them in the perfect time, at the perfect place.

The Secret of Kells will be presented at the 28th annual Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival, April 15-30 at St. Anthony Main Theatre. Nationally recognized, this is the largest film event in the Upper Midwest exhibiting cutting-edge film from around the globe to a broad MN audience. The festival delights audiences with a rare glimpse of films from all corners of the earth, patrons experience a variety of cultures, see first hand some of the best cinema the world has to offer, with the added bonus to rub elbows with visiting filmmakers. For more information on the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival, visit mspfilfest.org. For more information on The Secret of Kells, visit thesecretofkells.com.
Art credit: Cartoon Saloon

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