The Secret of Kells

The Secret of Kells (DVD, 2009)

Magic, fantasy, and Celtic mythology come together in a riot of color and detail that dazzle the eyes in a sweeping story about the power of imagination and faith to carry humanity through dark times.

SecretOfKells

Young Brendan lives in a remote medieval outpost under siege from barbarian raids. But a new life of adventure beckons when a celebrated master illuminator arrives from the isle of Iona carrying an ancient but unfinished book, brimming with secret wisdom and powers. To help complete the magical book, Brendan has to overcome his deepest fears on a dangerous quest that takes him into the enchanted forest where mythical creatures hide. It is here that he meets the fairy Aisling, a mysterious young wolf-girl, who helps him along the way. But with the barbarians closing in, will Brendan’s determination and artistic vision illuminate the darkness and show that enlightenment is the best fortification against evil?

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I had heard of this movie a while ago, but only got around to watching it recently.  It takes place at the Abbey of Kells during the 9th century, fortified against the ‘Northmen’ invasions which are sweeping the country.  The curious young Brendan, nephew of the Abbot of Kells, gets caught up in all sorts of mischief by exploring outside the fortified walls, frolicking with the faery Aisling, and learning how to produce intricate illustrations in the Book of Iona, recently brought to the Abbey by Brother Aidan after fleeing the Vikings.

The Secret of Kells contains a lot of references to history.  Brendan meets a woodland faery called Aisling (Ash-lin), which is thought to reference the Aislings, or prophetic seeress.  Brendan also battles the evil Crom Cruach, a pre-Christian Irish deity.  Also, Brother Aidan of Iona brought his cat, Pangur Bán, named after an Old Irish poem written by a monk about his cat.

Some critics say that The Secret of Kells glosses over the religious aspect of history, noting that the Book of Kells is really a Bible, containing the Gospels.  However the movie avoids mentioning religion specifically, instead focusing on the Celtic mythology and legends prevalent at that time.  Plus the timing of the movie is wrong, in terms of the Book of Iona/Kells being written and the Viking invasions.

I think despite the historical accuracy, The Secret of Kells is a wonderful movie.  The vibrant hand-drawn animation is fabulous, and the whole movie has a 2D effect that makes it appear like the movie is taking place within the Book of Kells as illustrations.  Definitely recommended.

© The Celtic Journey (2013)

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