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"I have lived through many ages,The book that turned darkness into light..."
Through the eyes of salmon, deer, and wolf.
I have seen the Northmen invading Ireland,
Destroying all in search of gold.
I have seen suffering in the darkness,
Yet I have seen beauty thrive in the most fragile of places.
I have seen the book;
An Irish/Belgian/French co-production directed by Tomm Moore at Cartoon Saloon, the studio behind Skunk Fu!.
Praised for its gorgeous visuals and music (it even got a standing ovation from the staff at Pixar), it managed to surprise everyone and get a Best Animated Feature nomination at the Oscars in 2010.
A fictionalized version of the history of the Book of Kells, the story focuses on Brendan, a young monk wanting to join his fellow monks in working on illuminating texts. With the rising threat of Viking invasion, his uncle, Abbot Cellach, is more focused on fortifying the Abbey for the inevitable attack.
The arrival of Brother Aidan, a master illuminator from Iona, allows Brendan to finally have a teacher and gives him an opportunity to leave the Abbey's wall when he is asked to get materials for ink. Brother Aidan has fled the Viking onslaught and is the keeper of the legendary book of Iona — the greatest work of illustration yet produced in Northern Europe, soon to be the Book of Kells. Befriending an enigmatic fairy named Aisling in the forest and taking part in assisting Aidan with the Chi Rho page, things go well for him until he encounters the evil god Crom Cruach, and the Viking threat continues to slowly move closer to the Abbey...
The film is now up on Hulu, meaning you can watch this gem for free!
The Secret of Kells contains examples of:
- Angel Of Death: Abbot mistakes the adult Brendan for this.
- Bittersweet Ending/Distant Finale: Aisling seemingly gives up her humanoid form helping Brendan into Crom Cruach's cave, the Vikings ravage Kells and kill most of the inhabitants, but Brendan and Aidan escape and finish the book. Aidan eventually passes and Brendan himself eventually returns to Kells, guided by wolf Aisling (who briefly flashes to her fey form) and raises the spirits of his disillusioned and aged uncle in the end by letting him look at the finished product he thought destroyed.
- Black Irish: One of the monks is from North Africa. His design... raised the hackles of a few reviewers unfamiliar with the Celtic art style.
- Body to Jewel
- Call To Illumination
- Celtic Mythology
- Chekhov's Gun: Green ink. Specifically, the smoke side-effect it caused.
- Eyedscreen: The sudden focus on Brendan's eyes when he first enters the forest. Also used on the last refugee to arrive before the Viking invasion.
- Five-Token Band: Of Irish Catholic monks. Think about that a moment. An Irish monk, an Italian monk, a Chinese monk, an African (Moor) monk, and an English monk, who was originally supposed to be Afghanistani. (There's also a monk with a German accent, a gloomy Slav, and a French monk (albeit without any lines in the final version).) It isn't explained how they all got there ("there" being a 9th century Irish monastery) but according to Word of God they represent the different artistic influences in the book. This counts as a Genius Bonus if you believe the hypothesis of How The Irish Saved Civilization. It's possible that Irish monasteries were essentially an ark for refugees across the Roman Empire.
- Foreshadowing: Brendan breaking through the scaffolding while chasing the goose.
- Gory Discretion Shot: The stabbings of the dock worker and Abbot Cellach happen off-camera. It's also implied that the monks and villagers holed up in the church instead of the tower don't survive the attack.
- Hypocritical Humor: "You can't learn everything from books." "I think I read that somewhere."
- Magic Feather/Sword of Plot Advancement: The Eye of Crom Cruach is a jewel capable of magnifying illustrations. It can only be used by someone who already has a natural talent.
- Motifs: Celtic knots are visible everywhere. Every snowflake, for starters.
- Circles and spirals are also very frequent there. Spirals apparently represent nature while circles are related to civilization, religion and art. Incidentally, the Book of Kells contains heaps of both.
- Never Say "Die": Aidan's footsteps are washed away in the sand next to Brendan's and Pangur's footsteps.
- Ominous Fog
- Ominous Latin Chanting
- My Parents Are Dead: A variant of this occurs when Brendan and Aisling first meet:
Brendan: I don't have a family, and we have food in Kells, so I wouldn't have come here for it anyway. I was just...a bit lost.
Aisling: You have no family?
Aisling: No mother?
Brendan: [looks down, not saying anything]
Aisling: ...I'm alone too.
- People of Hair Color: All the native Irish whose hair hasn't turned white.
- Seasonal Montage: At the end of the film.
- Snow Means Death: The attack on Kells.
- A Storm Is Coming
- Uncatty Resemblance: The sheepherder. "Baaaaa!"