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The Secret of Kells

December 27, 2010

The Secret of Kells

The Secret of Kells is much unlike any animated film that I’ve seen before.  Not because the story is so unique or the characters are so rich, in both of these areas, this film is actually fairly simple, but the animation style itself is unlike anything seen before and that is what makes this film very special.

The story is of an Abbey and a boy who lives there, Pangur Ban.  His parents have died and he lives there and is being trained by his uncle to take over the abbey.  This abbey, in Ireland, is in fear of attacks from the Vikings hoards who have been attacking other areas in search of gold, so they are building a wall around their abbey in order to keep the Vikings out.  This is taking place instead of the normal work of illuminating stories which they would typically be doing.  Pangur Ban is more interested in the illuminating than the wall building, and when the great illuminator, Aidan seeks refuge at the abbey after his abbey had been attacked, Pangur tries to help him out, while his uncle tries and keep him focused on the tasks at hand.  Pangur, however, spends more time with Aidan, and ventures outside of the village for the first time ever where he meets Aisling, a fairy/wolf/girl, whose forest it is.  With her help he finds berries to make inks with Aidan and Aidan trains him to become a master illuminator, but when the Eye of Columcille is lost, Aidan ventures into the forest, with the help of Aisling, to retrieve another eye from the god that lives in the woods. When he returns to it, he is able to use it to illuminate with greater detail and beauty, but the Vikings attack, and Aidan and Pangur escape with the book while his uncle tries to protect the villages who live in the abbey.  Both Pangur and his uncle fear the other dead.  Aidan finishes teaching Pangur and he illuminates the most important page in the book, and then returns to the abbey where he finds he uncle still alive, but barely as many years have passed, and shows him the book.

The voice acting in this film is good, and it was done with relative unknowns, the biggest name in this film if Brendan Gleeson, from Gangs of New York, Cold Mountain, and Troy.  He does a good job of playing Pangur’s uncle.  The rest of the voice talent is done very well by more obscure actors over here in the US anyways.  They bring the characters to life and help this film out.

What really makes this film though is the amazing visuals.  They are in many ways illuminated themselves with sweeping lines and spirals playing the stones and in the forest.  The people themselves go from fairly typically animated with Pangur and Aisling, to simply shapes with groups of towns people moving around in mounds all a unique person but seemingly connected, or one of the brothers at the abbey being simply a square.  Every part of the image is art and while it is created like a typical film with focus points as to where you should look and pay attention to, the shots themselves are worth pausing and dissecting.  Tomm Moore and Nora Twomey do a brilliant job of creating the vision, in their direction, for the world of this film, and do a good job of getting much from their actors.  Even when the vocals are a bit stiff at times, it goes with the way the film is created, as it blends in so much that is very old into its story.

Overall this is an animated film that is worth checking out if for no other reason than the visuals alone.  It is beautifully created and is a work of art and can be enjoyed as such.  The story and the acting don’t match up to the visuals in this film perfectly, but looking at it as a work of art, that becomes less of an issue, and the story is simple enough that they don’t mess it up.

Entertainment Grade: B

Critical Grade: A

Overall Grade: A-

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