For some reason this Irish-French-Belgian animated feature eluded me, even though it was one of the Best Animated Feature nominees in 2010. It definitely deserves such kudos!
Set in the eighth century, this film is a fictionalized account of the creation of the Book of Kells, the illustrated manuscript of the four Gospels. The story follows 12-year-old Brendan (voice of Evan McGuire) as he battles Vikings and confronts an ancient serpent god on a mission to locate a legendary crystal and complete the mythical Book of Kells.
A rare spiritually-tinged animated feature that’s rich in Celtic mythology and folklore. It’s so beautifully-crafted and instantly involving that within seconds I was whisked away into Brendan’s world. I love the flat look of the hand-drawn animation, somehow it adds to its ethereal quality. After having seen the more slick animated features with all the bells and whistles, it’s actually refreshing to see the simplicity of this feature, it’s just mesmerizing and beautiful to behold. Some of the drawings are as intricate as churches’ stained glass windows, which is appropriate given the subject matter.
Brendan lives a sheltered life, forbidden by his uncle, Abbot Cellach (voiced by Brendan Gleeson) to go outside the gateway. But when he secretly sneaks into the forest to look for gall nuts to make ink, that’s when his adventure begins. There he meets Aisling (pronounced like Ashley), a fairy of sort who’s able to take many forms. She’s ever so cute and bewitching, and their friendship is sweet and lovely. The story at times descend into surreal, even abstract form, and though I don’t always understand the details of what’s happening, I still enjoyed the ride. The Celtic music has a transcendental quality about it, especially the Aisling song “You must go where I cannot…” composed by Bruno Coulais.
There are some tense and perhaps even terrifying moments that might scare off the very young ones though, the black and red color schemes during the attack scenes conveys the darkness of the moment. I love that this film is not just beautiful to look at but it also speaks about an inspiring message of devotion, bravery, sacrifice and forgiveness. If you’re in the mood for a charming animated feature hat carries a deeper meaning than what’s typically offered in this genre, definitely give this one a shot. It’s available on Netflix Streaming too!