Fearful Symmetries

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14 April, 2010

The Secret of Kells



Now that I'm gearing up for the Wisconsin Film Festival, I don't want to forget my cinema adventure last week - The Secret of Kells. This Irish-French-Belgian production was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature Film.

It concerns young Brendan, nephew of Abbot Cellach. The abbot is a former illuminator who now concerns himself with designing and building a wall around the monastery and surrounding village to keep out the Viking hordes that are running roughshod over the land. Brendan hears the story of Aidan of Iona who is famed as the best illuminator in all of Christendom. When Aidan shows up at the monastery doors with his latest work in progress, The Book of Kells, Brendan is entranced. But the man is growing old and so he enlists the boy to his cause.

Brendan's first task is to gather some gall nuts outside the walls in order to make ink. The abbot has expressly forbidden Brendan from leaving the friendly confines so he must gather his resolve as well and disobey his uncle. Out in the forest he encounters a faerie who can take the shape of a wolf and she gives him a grand tour of the world outside the walls of his home before directing him to the nuts and eventually getting him home to finish the book.

The Secret of Kells is aimed at children and is not the deepest or most nuanced coming of age tale. Nonetheless it is a fun story of a boy maturing and coming into his own in the face of a strict guardian and moving to realize his dream. Furthermore the animation is absolutely splendid. Modeled after medieval illumination, it is unrealistic yet ornate and simply beautiful. Flames are rendered not as mercurial swathes of orange but rather as identical shapes with perfectly symmetrical curves and bordered in gold. It even utilizes the odd 2-D perspective of medieval art.



Unfortunately The Secret of Kells was only here for a week so be sure to catch it on DVD.
|| Palmer, 5:06 PM

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