A young boy in a remote medieval outpost under siege from barbarian raids is beckoned to adventure when a celebrated master illuminator arrives with an ancient book, brimming with secret wisdom and powers.
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?Written by
Brendan is 12, and the prequel comic included in the Blu-Ray version indicates that he was rescued from the Vikings as an infant by his uncle Cellach in 790 AD. The movie therefore takes place mostly in 802 AD. This was the actual date of a real-life Viking raid on Iona, the event that drove Aidan and the book to Kells for safety. See more »
I have lived through many ages, through the eyes of salmon, deer, and wolf. I have seen the Northmen invading Ireland, destroying all in search of gold. I've seen suffering in the darkness. Yet I have seen beauty thrive in the most fragile of places. I have seen the book. The book that turned darkness into light.
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During the closing credits, Aidan is heard reciting part of the Irish poem "Pangur Ban." See more »
The Secret of Kells is an independent, animated feature that gives us one of the fabled stories surrounding the Book of Kells, an illuminated manuscript from the Middle Ages featuring the four Gospels of the New Testament. I didn't know that this book actually exists, but knowing it now makes my interpretation and analysis much a lot easier. There are a few stories and ideas floating around about how the book came to be, who wrote it, and how it has survived over 1,000 years. This is one of them.
We are introduced to Brendan, an orphan who lives at the Abbey of Kells in Ireland with his uncle, Abbot Cellach (voiced by Brendan Gleeson). Abbot Cellach is constructing a massive wall around the abbey to protect the villagers and monks. Brendan is not fond of the wall and neither are the other monks. They are more focused on reading and writing, something Abbot Cellach does not have time for anymore. He fears the "Northmen," those who plunder and leave towns and villages empty and burnt to the ground.
One day a traveler comes from the island of Iona near Scotland. It is Brother Aidan, a very wise man who carries with him a special book that is not yet finished. Abbot Cellach grants him permission to stay and Brendan buddies up with him. Aidan has special plans for Brendan. First he needs ink for the book, but he requires specific berries. The only way to get them is to venture outside the walls and into the forest, an area off limits to Brendan. Seeing that he is the only chance for Aidan to continue his work, he decides to sneak out and return with the berries before his uncle notices his absence.
In the forest Brendan meets Ashley, the protector of the forest. She allows Brendan passage to the berries and along the way becomes akin to his company. She warns him of the looming danger in the dark and not to foil with it. There are things worse than Vikings out there. From there Brendan is met with more challenges with the book and the looming certainty of invasion.
I like the story a lot more now that I know what it is about. Knowing now what the Book of Kells is and what it contains, the animation makes perfect sense. I'm sure you have seen pictures or copies of old texts from hundreds of years ago, with frilly borders, colorful pictures, and extravagant patterns, creatures, and writings adorning the pages. Much like the opening frames of Disney's The Sword in the Stone. The animation here contains a lot of similar designs and patterns. It creates a very unique viewing experience where the story and the animation almost try to outdo each other.
I couldn't take my eyes off of the incredible detail. This is some of the finest 2D animation I have seen in years. It's vibrant, stimulating, and full of life. The characters are constantly surrounded by designs, doodles, and patterns in trees, on the walls, and in the air just floating around. It enhances the film.
The story is satisfactory, although I think the ending could have been strung out a little more. With a runtime of only 75 minutes I think there could have been something special in the final act. It doesn't give a lot of information nor does it allude to the significance of the book. We are reminded of it's importance but never fully understand. We are told that it gives hope, but never why or how. That was really the only lacking portion of the film. Otherwise I thought the story was interesting though completely outdone by the animation.
I guess that's okay to a certain degree. The animation can carry a film so far before it falls short. The story lacks a few parts, but it is an interesting take on a fascinating piece of history. I would recommend looking up briefly the Book of Kells just to get an idea of what myself and this film are talking about. I think it will help your viewing experience a lot more. This a very impressive and beautifully illustrated film that should definitely not be missed.
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