The Secret of Kells

Once in a fortnight, on Wednesday, I visit an extracurricular study group called Celt’s Reception. The term used by the students is mostly Trash Movies concerning Celts, which is quite as true, but they wouldn’t have get a room for the group with that name.

The tower of Kells Abbey

By now, we’ve had:

  1. Vercingetorix aka. Druids. Christopher Lambert with the most ridiculous hair and mustache ever and Teutons with hair colours ranging from bright red to pink.
  2. King Arthur. I didn’t like Keira Knightley before and the film didn’t make it any better. Goth, the picture was a shame, you could even see the modern screws that held the swords together. And by the way, there weren’t any Romans in Britain at this time, anymore. Good laughs, anyway.
  3. The Mystic Knights of Tir Na Nóg. Celtic Power Rangers. Do I need to say more?
  4. Roar. Heath Ledger mayherestinpeace as a celtic prince with a dead-at-the-end-of-the-pilot-episode girlfriend with modern-day gowan nightgowns. Well, at least the protagonist looked quite good.
  5. Hellboy – The Golden Army. Old Irish-speaking half-undead 1000 year old elf nobility with the greatest spear fighting skills I’ve ever seen, steampunky battlefields, Abe Sapien, books, great costumes, Hellboy’s girlfriend being way less annoying than in part one and toothfairies. Oh, and did I mention that the elves spoke quite good Old Irish? No trash at all, just great entertainment.
  6. Excalibur. Did you ever want to see Patrick Stewart in tights again (after Men in Tights)? Or a glowing-like-it-had-been-thrown-into-radioactive-waste sword? Then you could like this film. Well, it’s finest 80s trash. And very funny.

It may seem that those films except of Hellboy 2 were pretty horrible, and indeed, they were, but watching them is quite fun and some of us were rolling on the floor, especially during the episodes of Mystic Knights.

Yesterday we had the most beautifully made 2D animation film EVER. Brendan and the Secret of Kells is a story of freedom of mind, imagination, good books and white cats. The design, with more than a hint of the illustrations of the Book of Kells and medieval painting in general (lancet arches in the trees!), reminded me somewhat of the art of Rima from The Hermitage. The picture language in general is stunning and I think I’ve never seen something comparably expressive before in an animated picture! The lines are indeed quite simple and so are the figures, too, but this just means that the illustrators could focus more on the backgrounds and the colours that are stunning. And the details! There are even snowflakes in the shape of Celtic crosses and knots!

Aisling and Pangur

The white cat comes from an Old Irish poem of which the first lines are as following:

Meisse ocus Pangur Bán
cechtar nathar fria saindán
bíth a menma-som fri seilgg
mu menmae céin im saincheirdd

[I by myself and Pangur the White
Each of us with his own art concerned
His spirit usually aimed on hunting
My own one on my own special craft.]
(This translation might be a little bit free and it doesn’t rhyme, sadly.)

As I mentioned before, the artwork is lovely, the soundtrack catchy and touching and the story cute and heartwarming. I can just recommend this film to everyone who is interested in the Book of Kells, Celtic design, good stories, the wee folk, monasteries and scriptoriums, the art of writing and illustration and those who just love white cats.

This is the official website of the film where you can also hear one of the songs from the soundtrack as background music.

So, if you get the chance to watch it (it didn’t air in Germany at all, for instance), do so! It’s great, beautiful, delightful, a little bit scary when it comes to the Vikings, cute, dreamy and in every point a good movie.

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One thought on “The Secret of Kells

  1. I think Tomm Moore is working in the tradition of Irish folktales, which have often blended stories of saints and fairies. My opinion is that the fairy elements in the story work well given the context, and it is the Catholic faith that has the last word. :P

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