Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Secret Of Kells

(Myself while watching The Secret Of Kells)

Really I don’t have much more to say then that.

The Secret Of Kells is pretty freaking mind blowing.

A beautiful, painstaking film, that manages to take most of the things I love, Catholic theology, pagan mythology, 2D animation, Irish History, and blend them into a finished product so beautiful that it actually makes my eyes hurt.

The Book Of Kells, for those who don’t know. Is a Copy of the New Testament that is frankly one of the greatest things western civilization has ever produced. A work of such painstaking detail and beauty that it boggles the mind. You have to remember that this was when the practice of “writing shit down” was itself, considered a novelty. The Secret Of Kells, acts as a kind of secret origin for that work. Telling the story of a young monk, Brendan, living in Ireland during the time of the Viking raids and his troubled apprenticeship to the holder ot the book. As the Vikings draw nearer, the film follow’s Brendan out into the woods as he gathers materials for the books making. And encounters many of the spirits of the pagan spirits of the woods, both good and evil.

The Secret Of Kells is one of those films that’s damn near impossible to write about, because to appreciate its technique you just have to see it. Just as an example; I’ve heard many compare this to the work of Gendy Tartakovsky. There are some concepts like the animalistic Vikings that are very much in this school. So on a very superficial level I can see how you’d think that.

But in motion that’s not what the film looks like at all. Its one of those blessed rare cases where the style lends the film substance. Incorporating the ruthlessly two dimensional style and brutal lack of perspective of pre Renaissance Medieval art in a way that looks like something that I can confidently say, you’ve never seen before. It's representational art in only the most rudimentary sense, Really its iconography and its beautiful.

It’s the sort of thing that could ONLY be done in 2D animation. As much as I love Pixar, there’s a certain spontaneity and life that can only come from 2D animation. And the eagerness with which people are discarding it saddens me. Even something like Princess And The Frog is at its heart a nostalgia piece. Its behind glass atop a Lucite block. The Secret Of Kells lives and breaths.

To call the film beautiful is not enough. Every corner of every frame is filled with the sort of detail and grace that makes a veteran animation fan weep.

Calling the film merely hypnotic would be doing it a disservice. Don’t get me wrong. It’s a completely beautiful visceral experience that as an animation fan made my brain go “SQUUUUUEEEEE” the whole way through. But its much more then that. It’s a startlingly weighty meditation on Cultural Heritage and Responsibility. It’s a film that provides no easy answers. No cut and dry villains, no morals. The Book Of Kells is content to be what it is, a beautiful, utterly stunning experience.

1 comment:

Oliver said...

Thanks for the article - agreed - a great movie!

I wrote a 3-part analysis of the film, if you're interested in reading it - :D