Friday, April 23, 2010


Written by Fabrice Ziokowski

Directed by Tomm Moore

Where & When: The Landmark, West Los Angeles, CA. April 22, 2010 5:05PM

"The Secret of Kells" was a film that seemed to come out of nowhere and managed to receive a surprise nomination for Best Animated Film at last year's Academy Awards and because of that nomination, the film is receiving a theatrical run in the United States. I'm not so sure if that would have happened without it.

The story is set in Ireland at a monastery during the ninth century. Abbott Cellach is focused on completing a wall around the monastery to protect them from the approaching Vikings who threaten to destroy it. Abbott hopes his young nephew, Brendan will take over in the future.

Aidan from Iona, a master illustrator has come to the monastery. He managed to escape from his monastery after the Vikings destroyed it but he was able to save the Book of Kells that he has been working on. It is an illuminated Gospel book in Latin which contains the four Gospels of the New Testament. Brendan has heard about this book and is fascinated. Aidan introduces Brendan to the beauty of art and since his eyes and hands are no longer what they used to be, he has Brendan assist him on working on the book.

Aidan needs gall nuts to make ink and the nuts are in the forest behind the wall. Brendan is not allowed to go outside of the monastery but he knows how important it is to finish the book. Despite being afraid, Brendan decides to go and retrieve the nuts.

Brendan goes out in to the woods with Aidan's cat, Pangerbon but they manage to get lost and the sun is starting to set. They soon find themselves surrounded by wolves but they are saved by a faerie named Aisling. She becomes Brendan's friend and helper and teaches him about life outside of the monastery.

Abbott is against Brendan working on the book and wants him to focus on completing the wall. When he finds out that Brendan disobeyed him and went outside, he locks him in the tower as punishment. Soon the Vikings are at the monastery but will the re-enforced wall be enough to keep them out and if not, what will happen to Brendan and the Book of Kells?

First, this is a warning to parents: despite the cute animated characters, this film is really not made for young children. "The Secret of Kells" is very dark, involves some intense violence and deals with Irish folklore which your average American kid doesn't have much knowledge or interest about.

While I do enjoy computer-generated animated film, I much more prefer traditional hand-drawn animated films. Call me old-fashioned but I do find more warmth and emotion in these films and "The Secret of Kells" has plenty of both. This film's look is absolutely stunning and is beautifully rendered. It is very stylized and there is such a constant, colorful motion that you don't know where to look first.

I really wanted to like this film but unfortunately, I found myself uninterested and bored. I can't put my finger on what exactly was the problem for me but maybe there just wasn't enough of a compelling story to keep me entertained throughout. The beautiful images were just not enough.
This is, by no means, a bad film and I really am glad and appreciate that a film like this was made but I guess it was just not for me.