So I normally don’t post editorial/review type stuff, but I thought I’d do something CRAZY and do one.
A few nights ago I watched a movie called “The Secret of Kells.” Wow. It was very, very good. It had come up on my Netflix suggested movies a few times (Because I watch a lot of Nelvana/PBS’s Redwall series on Netflix) and the concept sounded interesting: historical-based plot-line and with animation, and I decided to look up some stills from it to see if it was worthwhile. After the first few Google Images results I was sold and started watching it. I had been doing some drawing, but I had to stop. I couldn’t draw during the entire movie. The style and animation in it was so captivating, I was completely riveted to the screen. They blended two of my favorite things, a Kim Possible-esque flat cell type character designs, and beautiful watercolor backgrounds, with all kinds of crazy Celtic symbols sprinkled in throughout the art. They played with perspective a lot, too, which made for incredible compositions that just blew my mind.
Plotwise it was interesting too, albeit a little confusing. The story revolves around Brendan, a young lad in the Kells Abbey, an orphan under the care of his uncle the Abbot, who is adventurous, creative, and working on becoming a scribe, inbetween excursions to the outside forest (technically off-limits) with his foresty friend Aisling, and helping to build a wall to surround the Abbey to keep out the Vikings who are in the process of raiding Irish villages. I’m leaving out a lot of the more plotsy stuff in order to not spoil it all for you. However, I understood it a lot better after looking up some stuff with my mom once we had finished. The confusing bit for me that made much more sense after doing a little more digging was that the Abbey of Kells was in fact a ninth-century Irish Christian Abbey — a fact I never was really sure of, due to the fact that “abbey” can basically mean any sort of building where likeminded people live when used in movies and the like, especially if it’s kid-oriented — and “The Book” that is constantly referenced as a fairly key plot point — is in fact the Book of Kells, an illuminated manuscript of the Bible made by the Irish in the ninth century.
The overall movie reminded me a lot of a French/Belgian/Irish version of a Hiao Miyazaki film, for me anyway: I never actually completely get his plot-lines, but the art in it is so arresting that I kind of stop caring and just enjoy the artwork. I was actually able to enjoy this story a little more than I have in movies like Howl’s Moving Castle, because there wasn’t as much foreign folktale stuff involved as there is in a lot of his stuff, and because of the historical stuff that really appealed to me.
For someone who is looking for something that is a visual mind-bender, and is okay with a few unexplained or unresolved plot points, The Secret of Kells is for you. Especially if you want to look into some creatively stylized and just plain epic artwork. Seriously. Probably one of the most beautiful animated films I’ve seen, hands down. Check it out.