The Secret Of Kells (Tomm Moore, 2009): Ireland, France, Belgium

Reviewed by Lea Encarnacion.  Viewed at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival.

The Secret of Kells is an animated feature film by Tomm Moore that tells the story of Brendan, a twelve year old boy who faces his fears to go on a journey after the legendary Book Of Kells.  The film is imaginative, fantastic, magical and filled with Celtic mythology, having its roots in old Irish legends.  It has been nominated for an Oscar as Best Animated Feature Film for this year.

The story begins when Brendan is sent chasing an elusive goose down the path in his village, surrounded by castle walls.  This goose chase introduces the audience to the style of animation that the Secret of Kells is all about.  His uncle sends for him, and as he ascends to his room in a tall and dark tower, his uncle casts a looming shadow, while instructing Brendan about what is to come and his fate.  The story continues on as Brendan learns about the magical Book of Kells from the magician and he sets off to find it and the Secret that it holds.  Along the way, he meets a willowy girl and trespasses a dark and evil cave as he hunts for the magical book.

The Secret of Kells is 95% hand drawn and was inspired by films like Mulan and other Disney films.  The budget was 6 million euros and funded by Irish film board.  Brendan Gleeson stars as one of the characters; all the voice recording took one week.  The film was finished for St. Patrick’s day last year and was released in Ireland.  I found that the way the story was shown was captivating as well as the amazing hand drawn animation, which was explosive with natural pencils and watercolors.  One of my favorite scenes is when the boy falls into the chamber of the snake, which he fends off by drawing a protective line-barrier.  When the snake is trapped it begins to eat itself until it disappears completely.  I think this film is great for kids to watch- although the story is not strong or captivating enough for most adults.  Nonetheless, the Secret of Kells remains a beautifully crafted animated film.

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