Friday, February 4, 2011
The Secret of Kells
The Secret of Kells is a fictionalized account of the creation of the Book of Kells, one of the most beautiful illuminated manuscripts ever created. Set in the time of the viking raids, an abbot named Cellach is obsessed with building a wall to protect a monastery from viking raiders. Cellach expects his nephew Brendan to continue his work when he's gone, but Brendan is mainly interested in illuminating manuscripts. He is told the story of Aidan of Iona, a master illuminator who fled a viking raid with what is supposed to be a beautiful illuminated manuscript. Aidan later comes to the monastery, takes Brendan under his wing, and asks Brendan to venture into the forest to look for gall nuts to make ink. Despite being forbidden to do so by the Abbot, Brendan ventures into the forest where he meets a forest spirit named Aisling.
The film is notable in two ways. First, the animation is some of the most beautiful I've ever seen. In today's world, it is one of the few 2D animation films in a sea of 3D animation, which is wonderful to see again. The drawings are remarkably detailed, as the above image shows, and simply needs to be seen to understand just how great it is.
The plot of the film is great, in that it draws from Irish history and mythology. Aisling is supposed to be a type of Irish fairy called the Tuatha De Danann, and at one point Brendan battles a pre-Christian Irish deity called the Crom Cruach. All of this gives the film an enchanting feel.
The Secret of Kells was actually nominated for the 2010 Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, but lost to Pixar's Up. I've always felt it should have won, not only because it's an enchanting film, but because in an age when the animation industry is utterly dominated by 3D animation, it's important that awesome 2D animation is awarded, so that the art does not die out. After all, most of the greatest films in animated history, and nearly all the films of our childhood, were hand drawn.