"The Secret of Kells" DVD, Blu-ray Movie Review

10/09/2010 Posted by Admin

"The Secret of Kells" 

 DVD, Blu-ray Movie Review

Directed by Tomm Moore and Nora Twomey, Written by Moore and Fabrice Ziolkowski, 75 Minutes, Not Rated

By our guest blogger, Rob Stammitti

In the ninth century, the Monastery of Kells is one of very few Celtic abbeys unattacked by approaching vikings. Abbot Cellach, a former scholar and visionary, goes mad with desperation as he orders the construction of a great wall around the city, sacrificing his former eye for expression and art in favor of this massive defense. His nephew, young orphaned Brendan, wants nothing more than to follow in the footsteps of the abbots he has apprenticed under, who have devoted their lives to literature.

One legendary abbot, Aidan of Iona, arrives in Kells after his own monastery was pillaged and destroyed by the vikings. He brings with him his legendary book, a text said to contain the most revelatory and transcendent pages in the world. But it has yet to be finished. As Cellach continues building his wall, Aidan teaches Brendan about his book with the intention of passing it on to him, and this leads Brendan through a series of adventures as he comes to understand himself and the world around him.

Nominated along with such films as "Up" and "Fantastic Mr. Fox" for the most recent Academy Award for Best Animated Film, "The Secret of Kells" sort of popped up out of nowhere recently, just a little hand-drawn feature from Ireland telling the legend of the actual Book of Kells, an ancient text written by the Celtics and containing various important works, including the New Testament.

Thank God for the Academy, because otherwise this little masterpiece would've gone criminally unnoticed. "Kells" will surely become one of the definitive animated works of this generation. Using the mix of traditional coming-of-age stories and various legends that Studio Ghibli has used so well, the film succeeds as a breathtakingly gorgeous work of art that indicates the crucial importance of knowledge and imagination over force and the growing similarities between truth and fiction, as well as a really heartfelt story of personal growth.

The animation is a fine example of how powerful hand-drawn animation can be when implemented well. The animators tell their story through various styles, whether it be chalk drawings, fluid, luscious traditional animation or combinations of both (along with little touches of computer animation here and there), and in the process, the film is told as if it were a mix of multiple interpretations of a legend pulled together into one.

Because it takes its tale from legends of Celtic tradition, the story also is incredibly refreshing and unique. Irish mythology is rich with stories of the power of nature and the mix of faith and art, and there are many different mythological figures from these stories employed in the film, including wood fairies and other odd creatures of nature. The film also succeeds quite well in its combination of legend and reality--it's thought that the Abbey of Kells was in fact a refuge for those under attack by vikings in the ninth century, and the animators used conjecture based on the current ruins of the city in order to design the look of Kells in the film.

Basically, the film is an extremely pleasant surprise. As the film's story says that the pen is mightier than the sword, its technical brilliance suggets hand-drawn animation may be mightier than the computer animation overwhelming theaters today.

Grade: A

View the trailer for "The Secret of the Kells" below. What are your thoughts?

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