One night, some time ago, when I was on Netflix searching the “popular movies” section, I came across a movie that caught my eye. It was in the section above, titled “movies you might like”. I thought I’d give the strange titled movie, The Secret of Kells, a try.
I thought it looked fun. It was so much more than what I expected. It was like I went on an extraordinary journey within the world of Kells. But I’ll explain.
Kells is the land where the main hero, Brendan, lives with his uncle, Abbot Cellach, and the rest of the town. Rumours of vikings prompts the construction of a wall around the town.
At the same time, Aidan, a legendary “illuminator” arrives with the book of Iona. A book with the power to turn “darkness into light”. Aidan enlists Brendan’s help to finish the book and preserve human knowledge, much to the dismay of Cellach.
Along the way, Brendan meets Aisling, a being of the woods. Together they are able to destroy an evil presence, which lives in the forest, and finish the book.
The film is packed with secret gems, but below are some of the gems I loved the most.
The secret is the film’s stunning visuals
Tomm Moore, the director and visionary behind the making of the film, wanted the aesthetic to be very different than modern animation.
Drawing his inspiration from the artwork of the original book of Kells, an old Irish book rich with details and inscriptions, he and his team of animators hand-crafted this tale.
The lighting and the colours amazed me. The style was simple yet enchantingly rich. One scene which really stood out to me was when Brendan was walking into the woods for the first time, looking for ink berries. The light in the scene falls on the forest floor as realistically as I’ve ever seen.
The work is all hand drawn too, Moore preferring hand drawn animation over CGI.
The secret is the film’s relevance
The story may be for children, but the deeper themes go beyond childhood into areas which adults deal with on a daily basis. Themes of fear, bitterness, curiosity, and fate are all present and intertwined so seamlessly throughout the story of the film.
Brendan’s father thinks the best way to protect the village is by building a wall and stubbornly holding out, while Aidan and Brendan believe the best thing to do is protect the book and flee.
It explores open-mindedness and stubbornness, tradition and enlightenment. It reminds me of generational conflicts I’ve seen in my own life.
The secret is the film’s adventure
From the very opening scene we are plunged into a fun-filled, wonder-filled adventure made for kids, but super enjoyable for adults. Watching it made me feel like a kid again, and it showed me the importance of abandoning fear and close-mindedness.
And an hour and a half later, I was full of inspiration, and dreaming of wonderful things. I can’t think of another film which made me feel and think the way The Secret of Kells did. I felt like the world was waiting to be discovered and explored. I felt like I had become more curious about life.
This movie is what I think storytelling should be. It’s about storytelling and preserving the experiences and ideas that live on inside each one of us.
The Secret of Kells will always continue to hold a special place in my heart, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
The journey awaits! One which is filled with fear, curiosity, enlightenment, adventure, inspiration, and everything in between.