This year there was Up, Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs, Fantastic Mr. Fox, Coraline, 9, Ice Age 3: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, Planet 51 and Monsters vs Aliens. All of them, great, great films. Okay... most of them great, great films. Half of them are great, the rest are good, with some obvious exceptions *coughiceageplanet51cough* But these aren't the only films coming out, there's also The Princess and the Frog which is due in seven days. Then there's also Avatar, which mixes live action with massive amounts of animation (okay CGI but really, what's the difference). However, despite these upcoming releases it has to be said, they won't come close to the film I'm going to tell you about. 3D, Stop-Motion, computer wizardry are the staples of animation these days. Really, aside from direct-to-DVD releases and the very occasional Disney release, there's nothing which can honestly be said to set itself apart from all the rest in terms of animation. Hell even Disney is milking the old Disney Princess and its animation stylings. Honestly, there's nothing which truly strikes you, that will truly make you stop the film and stare at the beauty of a shot, of a colour, of an incidental background detail given all the attention of a main character.
Well, I lie. There's one.
This film was released in Europe in March (there'll be a limited cinema release in the U.S on 12th of March next year). I cannot hope to express just how utterly and astoundingly beautiful this film is. So I won't bother, I'll just load you up with stills.
The story, for what there is, tells the tale of the completion of the Book of Kells, arguably the most valuable piece of art, of literature, to ever come out of Ireland. It's a copy of the bible written by monks around 800AD.
The film follows Saint Brendan (before he became a Saint), who lives in a monastery called Kells, under the tutelage of his uncle, Abbot Cellach (Brendan Gleeson). Upon one evening a Brother arrives from an island off the west coast, the only survivor of his monastary's destruction by vikings. Brother Aidan carries with him a book which promises to bring light back to the world which is so filled with darkness and despair. As the Abbot builds his wall to protect the people and the monastary, Brendan and Brother Aidan set about finishing the book. Brendan leaves to enter the sorrounding forest in search of berries to make emerald ink. There he meets the mysterious Aisling, who decides to help him, and he enters a world of beauty and magic while vikings begin to circle.
The film isn't really about events as much as it is ideas. The film dwells on themes of creation and imagination, the power of the written word and the strength which comes from the soul. And you atheists shouldn't shy away from the film because of its religious themes, you'll only be depriving yourself. I could tell you more than just this but frankly, I don't want to spoil it. And ultimately, most of you won't really be paying attention to the plot, it's the images which will stay with you at the end of the day.
The film is very heavily rooted in Irish history and legends, and some of the things spoken and seen won't carry much meaning outside Ireland (Aisling being one of those), however it is still open enough that you don't need a degree to come to grips with what's going on as the film lays the basics out for you. While scary at times (wait 'til you see the vikings in action!), is still completely suitable for children just as much as adults. While some older kids may be bored by the lack of jokes in this pretty serious film, the colour and animation will wow everyone else, as will the young child actors who play Brendan and Aisling.
While the secondary characters remain largely underdeveloped the dialogue and the accents are something that sets this film apart. Every word carries some meaning and seems to be shaped by the animation. And for those of you tired of American accents in, well let's face it, every animated film this year, this film will bring you a more lyrical, if I do say so myself, voice and accent.
The film has already won three awards this year, and is up for three more next year, including Best Animated Film at the European Film Awards (the winner will be announced on the 11th, so keep an ear out). In a whirlwind of CGI, 3D and stopmotion, The Secret of Kells is a film of remarkable beauty and astounding imagery. Please, for the love of god, buy this film now. Don't wait. You won't regret it. And for those of you outside Europe, watch it online. You'll see why you need to buy it when it finally comes out next year. It's almost Better Than Sex! but for its short running time which leaves you craving so much more, and the secondary characters are underdeveloped for the most part. I still implore you to see this piece of art. You can thank me later.