Sunday, May 1, 2016
The Secret of Kells (2009)
The Irish are a verbal people, preserving legends in story and song. The Book of Kells is a painstakingly illuminated medieval manuscript preserving the four gospels, and every page is a work of art. Many monks created it over many years. Perhaps the viewer is to think that Brendan was one of them. Brendan befriends old Brother Aidan, a traveler who has arrived bearing the precious book. Some pages remain to be created, and Aidan says Brendan must help. He can start by disobeying the Abbot, venturing outside the walls, and gathering the nuts he needs to make the ink.
This and his further adventures are a little like an illuminated manuscript itself. Just as every margin of the Book of Kells is crowded with minute and glorious decorations, so is every shot of the film filled with patterns and borders, arches and frames, do-dads and scrimshaw images. The colors are bold and bright; the drawings are simplified and 2-D. That reflects the creation of the original book in the centuries before the discovery of perspective during the Renaissance.
The movie has a wide appeal, with a gap in the middle. I think it will appeal to children young enough to be untutored in boredom, and to anyone old enough to be drawn in, or to appreciate the artistry.