The Secret of Kells

The Secret of Kells

By Nora Twomey, Tomm Moore - 1h15 - 2008 (Belgium, France, Irlande)
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The Secret of Kells
Audience 8+

Synopsis

Brendan is a 12-year-old boy living in the Abbey of Kells, which is ruled with an iron fist by his uncle, Abbot Cellach. The uncle is obsessed with building a wall around the abbey to protect it and nearby populations from attacks by Vikings, who are laying waste to the country. Brendan becomes friendly with Aidan, a refugee monk from the island of Iona and a brilliant illuminator who has managed to keep hold of his masterpiece and his cat, Pangur Bán. On a quest for the gall nuts that Aidan needs to make ink, Brendan defies the ban on going into the nearby woods and there he meets the ruler of the forest, Aisling.

Benshi's review
Benshi's review

Brendan and the Secret of Kells is, above all, a great adventure film. Its introduction is right up there with Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings, with a whispered summary of the situation from the forest fairy (Aisling/Galadriel) immediately immersing us in the film. We hear about nature, magic, Viking invasions, pain and the healing herb; now we know what we are in for. The screenplay is very linear but that does not make it simplistic and it is full of detail. There is nothing gratuitous about the adventures, as each one, in its own way, conveys relevant historical or artistic information. The film also abounds with references to Irish culture and superbly shows Ireland's mix of legends and Celtic and Christian divinities. Still strikingly topical and anything but preachy, the film casts the power of beautiful art and writing against the weapons of these greedy and uncultivated hordes that live only for gold (any resemblance to actual persons etc. and so on). While the characters are monks who are scribes or illuminators and the Book of Kells is a religious tome, this is above all a story about the survival of artists dedicated absolutely to producing a work unlike any other. The film makes clever use of digital technology, very deftly combining it with traditional animation to achieve a highly original result. At times we are transported into the illuminated manuscripts, where no heed is paid to perspectives and proportions. The effect is visually delightful. The Secret of Kells invites us on a journey through time while enabling us to visit an eternal Ireland - the story is imagined but the beauty is truly deep. As we are gently ushered through a world of historical realism and almost frenetic dreaminess, we find ourselves feeling an urge to sign up immediately for Gaelic classes. Above all, though, this is a great adventure film.

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Top reasons to watch this film !

  • 1 For the gorgeous sets
  • 2 For the Vikings, who are very nasty indeed
  • 3 For Pangur Bán

Who is it aimed at ?

Although the film can be watched by (slightly) younger children, viewers aged 8 and over will be better able to appreciate its feel and power. They will better grasp the issues and relish the suspense. Also, they will not be able to help feeling a thrill of excitement at the most terrible moments while also admiring the highly accomplished graphics. The Vikings are particularly well done (figures emerging from flames, preceded by ravens flying in formation) but while older viewers will love fearing and loathing them, younger ones might find these somewhat surly characters a little less pleasant.

Themes and topics

Painting Tales and legends
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