The Secret of Kells

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The Secret of Kells
The Secret Of Kells Promo Poster.jpg
Directed by Tomm Moore
Nora Twomey
Produced by Paul Young
Didier Brunner
Vivian Van Fleteren
Screenplay by Fabrice Ziolkowski
Story by Tomm Moore
Starring Brendan Gleeson
Evan McGuire
Christen Mooney
Mick Lally
Music by Bruno Coulais
Kíla[1]
Edited by Fabienne Alvarez-Giro
Production
company
Les Armateurs
Vivi Film
Cartoon Saloon
France 2 Cinéma
Euroimages Fund of the Council of Europe
EU Media Plus Program
Media Programme of the European Community
Canal+
CinéCinéma Classic
Conseil Général de la Charente
Conseil Régional de Poitou Charentes
Piste Rouge
Bord Scannán na hÉireann
Broadcasting Commission of Ireland
Vlaams Audiovisueel Fonds
Centre du Cinéma et de l'Audiovisuel de la Communauté Française de Belgique
Télédistributeurs Wallons
Promimage
Wallimage
Tax Shelter ING Invest de Tax Shelter Productions
Belgacom TV
Kinepolis Multi
Distributed by Gébéka Films (France)
Kinepolis Film Distribution (Belgium)
Walt Disney Pictures (Ireland) StudioCanal
Release dates
  • 30 January 2009 (2009-01-30) (Gérardmer Film Festival)
  • 11 February 2009 (2009-02-11) (France/Belgium)
  • 3 March 2009 (2009-03-03) (Ireland)
Running time
75 minutes
Country France
Belgium
Ireland
Language English
Budget €6,524,983
Box office $739,454[citation needed]

The Secret of Kells (working title: Brendan and the Secret of Kells) is a 2009 French-Belgian-Irish[2] animated fantasy film by Cartoon Saloon that premiered on 8 February 2009, at the 59th Berlin International Film Festival. It went into wide release in Belgium and France on 11 February, and Ireland on 3 March. It was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.[3][4]

Plot summary[edit]

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.

—Summary

The film gives a fictionalised account of the creation of the Book of Kells.

The film begins with a voiceover by Aisling, one of the film's protagonists, saying "I have seen the book, the book that turns darkness into light."

Brendan, a young, curious, and idealistic boy living in the tightly knit community at the Monastery of Kells, is under the strict care of his stern uncle, Abbot Cellach. Cellach is obsessed with building a wall around the Abbey of Kells, in order to prevent Viking attacks.

Brendan is apprenticed in the scriptorium of the monastery. After listening to the other monks of the monastery talk about Brother Aidan, the creator of the Book of Iona, Brendan is curious about the mysterious illuminator and "the book that turns darkness into light". Aidan arrives in Kells, accompanied by his white cat, Pangur Bán, after his own monastery is destroyed by a raid. After eavesdropping on a discussion between Cellach and Aidan, Brendan wanders to the scriptorium, where he finds the still- to-be-completed book. Pangur Bán guards the book, but when the cat sees that Brendan means no harm to the book, he accepts him. Aidan arrives and tells Brendan about the book.

Seeing Brendan as a suitable apprentice, Aidan sends Brendan, with Pangur Bán for company, into the woods to obtain gall nuts to make ink for the illumination of the book. However, Brendan is cornered by a hungry pack of wolves. He's saved by Aisling, the forest spirit from the beginning of the film. Although at first suspicious of Brendan's presence, Aisling slowly comes to accept him after he reveals his intentions of helping to create the book.

After a brief yet scary close encounter with Crom Cruach, a deity of death and destruction who Aisling is deeply afraid of, Brendan and Aisling return to the outskirts of the forest. Aisling assures Brendan that he can come back and visit anytime he wants.

Upon his return home, Brendan is reprimanded by Cellach, who forbids him to leave the monastery again. However, Brendan continues to work with Aidan. Brendan learns that Aidan's work is endangered by the loss of the Eye of Columbkille, a special magnifying lens captured from Crom Cruach. When Brendan tries to leave to visit Crom's cave to obtain another Eye, he is confined to his room by Cellach.

Pangur Bán and Aisling set Brendan free. After running into the heart of the woods, Brendan tells Aisling of his objective. A shocked Aisling begs him not to confront the dark deity, warning that Crom Cruach will kill him. But Brendan persuades Aisling to assist him, by stating that if he doesn't retrieve the Eye, the book will never be completed. Eventually Aisling helps Brendan enter Crom's cave, nearly getting killed in the process. Brendan duels with Crom and seizes the Eye, blinding Crom and causing the dark deity to consume itself. Upon returning to the cave entrance, Brendan finds the forest covered in white flowers.

Brendan returns to the Abbey and continues to assists Aidan in secret. The brothers of the monastery excitedly watch the two create the book. In a fit of frustration, Cellach locks Brendan and Aidan in the scriptorium, but not before ripping out a page that Brendan had created for the book. Shortly thereafter, the Vikings invade Kells, and Cellach watches in horror as his wall falls. Brendan and Aidan manage to escape by using smoke from the gall berry ink, confusing the raiders when they burst into the scriptorium.

Cellach is stabbed by a viking raider; Brendan is dragged away by the frantic Aidan, who tells him that there's nothing that he can do. After they leave, Cellach, having survived the attack, sees the burning remains of the scriptorium. Thinking that his nephew has perished, Cellach falls into a deep despair.

While running through the woods, Brendan and Aidan are confronted by the raiders, and the Viking leader takes the book's bejeweled cover and scatters the pages. Before the Vikings can kill Brendan and Aidan, Aisling's black wolves attack the Vikings, saving the two refugees. Brendan and Aidan gather the pages and depart.

They travel across Ireland, and, after many years, complete the book. The now-adult Brendan returns to Kells with Pangur Bán, guided by Aisling (in wolf form). The guilt-ridden Cellach is nearing death. Brendan and the Abbot happily reunite, and Brendan displays the complete Book of Kells to his uncle. The film closes with an animation rendition of some of the illuminated pages of the book.

Voice cast[edit]

  • Evan McGuire as Brendan, the protagonist. Twelve-year-old Brendan is bright, imaginative and curious, but leads a sheltered life. Brendan is very interested in the art of illumination, and spends much of his time in the scriptorium with some of the Brothers in the abbey.
  • Brendan Gleeson as Abbot Cellach. A former illuminator himself, Abbot Cellach now superintends a wall to protect the Abbey of Kells from invasion, and gradually becomes unreasonable until the destruction of his wall, and relents thereafter.
  • Christen Mooney as Aisling, a forest fairy, related to the Tuatha De Danann, living in the woods outside of Kells. Her age is uncertain, but she is likely to be hundreds of years old, though she is very youthful in appearance. Although terrified of Crom Cruach, she becomes loyal to Brendan and does whatever she can to help him. She often takes the form of a white wolf, in which shape she commands the local wolves for the forest. In the beginning, she speaks like Tuan mac Cairill in the Lebor Gabála Érenn.
  • Mick Lally as Brother Aidan; as the Vikings attacked the Scottish island of Iona, master illuminator Brother Aidan fled with his cat, Pangur Bán. In Kells, he acquires Brendan as an assistant.
  • Michael McGrath as Adult Brendan.
  • Liam Hourican as Brothers Tang and Leonardo, two illuminators from Asia and Italy, respectively. The latter is implied to have perished in the Norse invasion, whilst the former witnesses the return of Brendan.
  • Paul Tylack as Brother Assoua, an illuminator from Africa. He is implied to have died in the invasion.
  • Paul Young as Brother Square, an illuminator from England. He is implied to have died in the invasion.

Non-speaking Characters:

  • Pangar Bán: Brother Aidan's pet cat. He is a white angora cat with heterochromia, for his left eye is blue and his right eye is green. Pangar at first appeared as apathetic and untrusting towards Brendan, defending the book of Kells from Brendan in the scriptorium in the beginning of the movie. But when he discovers that Brendan means no harm to the book, Pangar Bán softens and becomes Brendan's companion, second only to Aisling, in his adventure in completing the book. Pangar communicates in purring and mewing, but mostly through facial expressions.
  • Crom Cruach: one of the film's antagonists. A viper eel-like Irish God of Destruction and Death. Aisling greatly fears him, due to his notorious reputation of having no regard for life. Crom was responsible for killing Aisling's mother some time prior to the film. He stole the eye lens of Columbkille in order to see. Brendan confronts Crom in his underwater liar when he goes to retrieve the eye for Aidan. After long, intense battle similar to Beowulf's battle with Grendel's Mother in Beowulf, Crom is defeated when Brendan takes out his eye, (the eye of Columbkille) and imprisons him in a circle of chalk, where the blinded dark deity consumes himself.
  • The Vikings: one of the film's antagonists. A band of murderous, unholy viking raiders who have no regard for human life. There are seen in Brendan's imaginary fears, Aidain's past and the cathartic climax where they violently invade Kells. A group corners Brendan and Aidan at the very end, but they are killed by Aisling's wolves.

Reception[edit]

Folio 32v of the original Book of Kells shows Christ enthroned.

The film was very well received; it holds a 91% overall approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 78 reviews with an average rating of 7.6/10[5] with the critical consensus that "Beautifully drawn and refreshingly calm, The Secret of Kells hearkens back to animation's golden age with an enchanting tale inspired by Irish mythology."[5] On Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 based on reviews from critics, the film has a score of 81 (indicating "universal acclaim") based on 20 reviews.

Some critics compared the film to Hayao Miyazaki's works such as Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away. www.movies.ie called it "a unique animated movie … beautifully made … has a magical other-worldly feel, with a script and visuals that reminded me of Hayao Miyazaki's movies (Spirited Away, etc..)… puts other 3D movies with bigger budgets to shame." Joe Morgenstern of the Wall Street Journal said that "it pay homage to Celtic culture and design, together with techniques and motifs that evoke Matisse, Miyazaki and the minimalist cartoons of UPA.”[6] Gary Thompson of the Philadelphia Daily News said that The Secret of Kells "is noteworthy for its unique, ornate design, its moments of silence ... and gorgeous music."[7]

Leslie Felperin of Variety Magazine praised the film as "Refreshingly different" and "absolutely luscious to behold".[8] Jeremy W. Kaufmann of Ain't It Cool News called its animation "absolutely brilliant,"[9] and reviewers at Starlog called it "one of the greatest hand drawn independent animated movies of all time."[10] Writing for The Los Angeles Times, Charles Solomon ranked the series the tenth best anime on his "Top 10".[11]

On Oscar weekend it was released at the IFC Center in New York City and it has since been released in other venues and cities in the United States. As of 11 July 2010, it has grossed $667,441.[12]

Influences[edit]

The film is based on the story of the origin of the Book of Kells, an illuminated manuscript Gospel book in Latin, containing the four Gospels of the New Testament located in Dublin, Ireland. It also draws upon Celtic mythology,[13] examples include its inclusion of Crom Cruach, a pre-Christian Irish deity[14] and the reference to the poetic genre of Aislings, in which a poet is confronted by a dream or vision of a seeress, in the naming of the forest sprite encountered by Brendan. Wider mythological similarities have also been commented upon, such as parallels between Brendan's metaphysical battle with Crom Cruach and Beowulf's underwater encounter with Grendel's mother.[15]

The Secret of Kells began development in 1999, when Tomm Moore and several of his friends were inspired by Richard Williams' The Thief and the Cobbler, Disney's Mulan and the works of Hayao Miyazaki, which based their visual style on the respective traditional art. They decided to do something similar to Studio Ghibli's films but with Irish art.[16]

Accolades[edit]

Wins
Nominations

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Bynum, Aaron H. (11 June 2008). "Brendan and the Secret of Kells Animation Film at Annecy '08". Animation Insider. p. 2. Retrieved 26 October 2008. 
  2. ^ Lumenick, Lou (5 March 2010). "A visual feast – just add Celt". New York Pos. Retrieved 24 September 2010. 
  3. ^ Scott, A. O. (5 March 2010). "Outside the Abbey's Fortified Walls, a World of Fairy Girls and Beasts". The New York Times. Retrieved 9 April 2010. 
  4. ^ Ryzik, Melena (2 March 2010). "An Indie Takes on Animation's Big Boys". The New York Times. Retrieved 9 April 2010. 
  5. ^ a b "The Secret of Kells Movie Reviews". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved 17 December 2010. 
  6. ^ "Crash of 'The Titans'". The Wall Street Journal. 
  7. ^ http://articles.philly.com/2010-03-18/news/24957422_1_traditional-animation-animators-work-kells
  8. ^ Felperin, Leslie (25 February 2009). "Brendan and the Secret of Kells". Variety Magazine. Retrieved 2 December 2009. 
  9. ^ Kaufmann, Jeremy W. (17 July 2009). "An Early Look at Distinctive Animated Film The Secret of Kells – US Premiere This Weekend". Ain't It Cool News. Retrieved 2 December 2009. 
  10. ^ Koller, Cameron and Riley (2 December 2009). "THE SECRET OF KELLS: The Little Movie That Should". Starlog.com. Retrieved 4 December 2009. 
  11. ^ Solomon, Charles (December 21, 2010). "Anime Top 10: ‘Evangelion,’ ‘Fullmetal Alchemist’ lead 2010′s best". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved February 15, 2014. 
  12. ^ Secret of Kells at Box Office Mojo
  13. ^ Hartl, John (13 May 2010). "'The Secret of Kells': An enchanting tale of a boy in barbarian times". Seattle Times. 
  14. ^ O'Hehir, Andrew (4 March 2010). ""The Secret of Kells": Oscar's dazzling Irish surprise". Salon.com. 
  15. ^ "The Secret of Kells: the circle and the serpent". Basement Garden. 1 June 2010. 
  16. ^ Cohen, Karl (16 March 2010). "The Secret of Kells – What is this Remarkable Animated Feature?". Animation World Network. 
  17. ^ "Brendan and the Secret of Kells". plexpixel.com. 6 December 2009. Retrieved 7 December 2009.  |first1= missing |last1= in Authors list (help)
  18. ^ The Secret of Kells wins Grand Prize at SICAF official site
  19. ^ A 9. Kecskeméti Animációs Filmfesztivál és a 6. Nemzetközi Animációs Fesztivál díjai (English: "Awards"). Kecskeméti Animáció Film Fesztivál. 2009.
  20. ^ "IFTA Winners 2010". ifta.ie. 23 February 2010. Retrieved 23 February 2010. 
  21. ^ "Aardman sweeps board at British Animation Awards". bbc.co.uk. 8 April 2010. Retrieved 8 April 2010. 

External links[edit]