Posted by: Dr. Grover B. Proctor, Jr. | 30 April 2010

The Film of Kells… (it’s good, but the book was better)

There probably was never much doubt that Up would win this year’s Academy Award for Best Animated Feature Film. Through the collected genius at Disney/Pixar and DreamWorks, Hollywood basically has a lock on major, amazing, delightful, deserving, fan-favorite animation these days.

But it’s the international competition for the animation prize which can be most surprising.

From the film version of The Book of Kells

From the film version of The Book of Kells

The Secret of Kells (listed as a product of France-Belgium-Ireland) was also up for this year’s Oscar, and it is now showing at “select theaters” in America. (Galaxy in Cary and Colony in Raleigh, for those of you in central NC)

We haven’t seen it yet (though, with Adrianne’s wonderful skills as a calligrapher, I’m sure we will!), but I thought I would bring it to your attention. The reviews are almost all positive, and virtually every one of them has a form of the word “gorgeous” in it somewhere. (It won “Best Irish Film” at last year’s Dublin International Film Festival.)

By the way, if you’re truly a UK film buff, you may recognize the voice of Brendan Gleeson in this film as Abbot Cellach. Who, you may ask, is Brendan Gleeson when he’s at home? He played Professor Alastor ‘Mad Eye’ Moody in the Harry Potter series.

So, yes, the Film of Kells is no doubt wonderful, but the book is, of course, a masterpiece. Scroll down to the bottom of this article for a hint at its timeless beauty.

The Secret of Kells


Genre: Adventure | Animation
Directed by: Tomm Moore & Nora Twomey
Running Time: 75 minutes
Rating: Not rated in America, but given a PG in Ireland, Australia and Singapore

Magic, fantasy, and Celtic mythology come together in a riot of color and detail that dazzle the eyes, in a sweeping story about the power of imagination and faith to carry humanity through dark times. Young Brendan lives in a remote medieval outpost under siege from barbarian raids. But a new life of adventure beckons when a celebrated master illuminator arrives from foreign lands carrying an ancient but unfinished book, brimming with secret wisdom and powers. To help complete the magical book, Brendan has to overcome his deepest fears and venture into the enchanted forest where mythical creatures hide. It is here that he meets the fairy Aisling, a mysterious young wolf-girl, who helps him fulfill his dangerous quest. (GKIDS distributor in America; Les Armateurs production company in France)

Wall Street Journal Joe Morgenstern:
This wonderfully strange and exquisite little feature was created, especially for young children, to celebrate the book through another kind of illumination that’s been falling into disuse — hand-drawn animation.

The New York Times A.O. Scott:
It is only fitting that a movie concerned with the power and beauty of drawing — the almost sacred magic of color and line — should be so gorgeously and intricately drawn. Andrew O’Hehir:
A gorgeous transcription of medieval decorative art and its themes into a contemporary animated narrative, one that should enthrall children older than 8 or so, along with the adults lucky enough to watch with them.

NPR Bob Mondello:
There’s something kind of captivating about a film that’s been painstakingly drawn to glorify the craft of illustration, and that’s comfortable using retro techniques. Because after all, what else makes sense for bringing to life the gold and scarlet ornamentation in ancient manuscripts?

The film version of The Book of Kells

The film version of The Book of Kells


Below are two samples from Leabhar Cheanannais , otherwise known as The Book of Kells.


The Book of Kells


The Book of Kells

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