The Secret of Kells Reviews
The story of The Secret of Kells is a simple one. A monastery in Ireland hurries to complete a wall that will hopefully protect it and its village from the coming destruction of the Vikings, when it is visited by a monk who also flees the Vikings. He brings with him a special book that he is writing, and a young boy who lives in the monastery tries to help him complete it, and meets a shape-shifting forest girl in the process. The friendship that's made between the two may end up saving both the book, and the lives of the monks and villagers.
The aspect of The Secret of Kells that's most noteworthy is the visuals. This is one of the most gorgeous and visually inventive movies I've ever seen. The art style is like moving illustrations from a book of English fairy tales, and it constantly changes from scene to scene, offering new things to see while keeping the same basic theme. It really is a beautiful movie, and I don't see how anyone could watch it and not be thoroughly impressed by the amount of creativity and work that had to go into making this.
On the whole, I think this will appeal to older teens and adults more than children, as it's a quite serious story, and pretty violent in some places. There's not much of the humor or kinetic antics that younger viewers usually like in their animated movies, but anyone old enough to appreciate The Secret of Kells will be quite pleased with this little gem.
It tells the story of Brendan, a young lad living in a monestry in Ireland, and his interest in the arrival of Brother Aidan, who is writing an almost magical looking manuscript. However, the Brother can't finish his writings until he can get more bramble berries, to use for ink, that can only be found in the dangerous forest beyond the Abbey walls. Brendan takes it upon himself to venture out and retrieve the berries and becomes embroiled in a whole new world of possibilities.
I had high expectations for this film but it didn't capture my imagination as much as I thought it would, although the animation is second to none and absolutely gorgeous in it's hand painted intricate beauty. It truly is captivating.
The illustrations of the real "Book of Kells" are captured and brought to life in their complexity with this film. The traditional Christian iconography with swirling motifs and animals and mythical beasts, together with Celtic knotwork and interlacing patterns are as close a representation of the book as your likely to get. Despite the visual feast, however, there is something missing. The dialogue is stilted and it doesn't engage you the way it should. I found myself drifting throughout it, when really I should have been glued to the screen with the marvellous Christian and Pagan symbolism.
If they had put as much effort into a flowing narrative as they did with the animation this would have been a masterpiece. Unfortunately, it's not. But it's a damn good looking attempt at one.
It sort of feels like style took presidence over story. On the surface level it is not particuarly complicated or original, but that does not make it any less enjoyable. Apparently there was some deeper metaphors and deeper meanings, but I missed them. It can certainly be taken at a literal level, but it feels like there is something more. Maybe there is a historical or legendary aspect I'm just unaware of. One thing I'm pretty of is that The Book of Kells is the four gospels. Even so, that doesn't really add any meaning to the movie. At least that I can see. I bring this up only beause I've read numorous complaints about it; and they are completely legitimate. Still, it does not detract from the mystery and beauty that makes up the rest of the film.
The Secret of Kells tells the simple story of the boy behind the famed Book of Kells. The story while simplistic enriches us with a thoughtful story. One that put forth the importance of the written word, preservation of imagination, and the essence of civilized life. The plot while revolving around Christianity never gives off a Christian overtone. This aspect is rightfully downplayed so it can become accessible for anyone and making it final message delivery a reflection of what most valuable in life over a promotion towards religious views. The character archetypes despite simplicity given to them keeps the viewer interested. The world, just like the characters, are lively and energetic as well somber and sullen. Though it's not entirely flawless. The fast pace of the story doesn't allow development for important characters to flourish. Too many instances elements are merely commented on or significant key characteristic glossed over. Leaving closure on some story line to feel empty. Given it's a film that is about 75 minutes one will be shocked by the abrupt ending that never materialize the true power of the Book of Kells holds.
The animation style is a varied mixture of simple 2D with highly painted background, a few of monochromatic line animation, 3D animation, and CGI. The 2D style animation aren't really just single colors; the characters have ruddy cheeks, shadows cross them, dappled forest light dots them, even firelight is occasionally reflected from a face. Sometimes they contain the movement of secondary characters, or of burning fires, or of flowing water, or of stars wheeling through the heavens. The monochromatic line segments are intertwined with 3D animation usually in sequences with multiple, evenly moving layers. These segments are inspired from the actual book of Kells in terms of art style which are some of the best segments in the film. CGI is an enhances the visuals and is used very subtly. With the exception of one scene, the CG blends so well into the art style you'll be hard pressed to find a scene where it's noticeable. The sparse Celtic musical score is effective in evoking the sense of fantasy that imbues the film.
The Secret of Kells might rush it plot, but it visuals and what it culturally shares are mesmerizing. While it's not a faithful historical account of the creation of The Book of Kells it is a rewarding visual experience.