As we gear up for the release of Tomm Moore's Song Of The Sea in the UK and Ireland, we're reposting our review for the first feature from Cartoon Saloon, 2009's Oscar nominated The Secret Of Kells- directed by Moore and Nora Twomey.
The 2009 nominations for the Oscar for best animated feature was an impressive bunch. The eventual winner, Pixar's Up was nominated alongside Fantastic Mr Fox, Coraline and Disney's Princess and the Frog. All four are well regarded by both fans of animation and by film aficionados in general. This only makes it all the more remarkable that a fifth film, a little known feature from Ireland, also made the list that year. The Secret of Kells was not well known at the time of it's nomination, and the passing of the intervening years has not really changed that. Yet with that Oscar night long gone, now seems as good a time as any to take a look back at this underdog flick.
The Secret of Kells is set in medieval Ireland in a time under the constant threat of invasion by Vikings. In the abbey of Kells, the Abbot is obsessed with efforts to build a wall to protect the Abbey and it's inhabitants from the dreaded Northmen. The story follows the Abbot's nephew, an adventurous and curious orphan named Brendan. Kells Abbey is a real place (not far from what is now Dublin) and this is a fictionalised retelling of the creation of the real-life manuscript The Book Of Kells. The book is regarded as one Ireland's most prized historical artefact. In the film, the book is begun by Brother Aiden, a master Illuminator who fled the Scottish island of Iona following a Viking invasion. Aiden enlists Brendan's help in completing the manuscript an undertaking that will lead him into the forbidden forest that lies beyond the abbey walls.