by Carmen Ferreiro
As The Secret of Kells starts, a wild eyed goose runs amok through fields and village, up and down the scaffold that frames the walls of the abbey, being chased enthusiastically by a red haired, blue eyed boy and four different sized friars.
“This won’t hurt a bit,” the boy says, when he finally catches the reluctant animal. And proceeds to pull four feathers from its tail.
The feathers will be used by the friars to copy texts in the scriptorium. They will also get the boy, Brendan, in trouble with his uncle the abbot. Because, while Brendan dreams of books and drawings, the abbot wants him to help build the wall that will protect the abbey from the feared Viking raiders, and has forbidden him to leave the abbey.
Brendan follows his uncle’s orders, until one day Brother Aidan, the only survivor of a Viking attack on his monastery, arrives at Kells seeking refuge. He brings with him the legendary Book of Iona, the book he has been working on most of his life. To finish it he will need rare acorns to make the colored ink and a mysterious crystal to help him create the fractal effect of his drawings.
Lured by the beauty of the pictures, Brendan disobeys his uncle and goes into the forest where the pagan spirits live and wolves lurk in the shadows.
Befriended by Aisling, a forest spirit, with long silvery hair, who can sing animals (http://www.thesecretofkells.com/) to change shape at her will, Brendan collects the seeds and goes into the dark underworld where the evil presence that has killed Aisling’s parents live, to get the crystal.
Ultimately the Vikings attack the abbey and the fate of the book that will be known as the Book of Kells (“the pinnacle of Insular illumination.” “Ireland’s finest national treasure” according to the Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_of_Kells) rests in the hands of our young hero.
Filmed in traditional 2D animation format, The Secret of Kells is a beautifully realized movie, where every lush frame fittingly brings to mind the flowery borders and ornate letters the Irish monks used to decorate their manuscripts. Please go to http://www.thesecretofkells.com/ then click Image Gallery to see some of the breathtaking pictures that make this such a remarkable film.
The Secret of Kells was an Oscar nominee for best animated feature this year. No secret why.