Thursday, June 3, 2010

Movie Review: Secret of the Kells

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The taint – if you can call it that – that animation is a medium only for kids persists. Sure, the last 20 years has seen an explosion of adult cartoons, particularly on television. From ‘Ren and Stimpy’ to the ‘Family Guy’, the humor in these shows is subversive in large part because they use a “kids” genre to tell dirty jokes and explore adult themes.

What I want is more adults to enjoy animated films for their art; for the fact animation often represent a purer filmmaker vision less adulterated by moody actors or bad lighting. So what I want is an animated film that appeals to everyone; films that are not a “kids” film or an “adult” cartoon. What I’m looking for is classic transcendent.

The Secret of the Kells is one of this year’s best. It is gorgeous. Warm, hand drawn animation that is unexpectedly, breathtakingly beautiful with a dream like quality where one’s breath curls into fractals and Celtic weaves lace the trees. The hand drawn animation, its character, its simplicity, its imperfections, depicts the story’s world perfectly. The a story of innocence and beauty enduring against war and intolerance.

The Secret of the Kells involves a young monk-in-training pursuing his curiosity of nature and talent for calligraphy during the turmoil of Ireland’s Middle Ages where Vikings raided and pagan gods hid in the forests. The boy’s adopted uncle, an abbot, obsessively builds a wall to protect a small village from these threats. The boy, curious and talented, is torn between a strong love for his uncle, the attractive promise of adventure in the forest, and the tutelage of a wise and mischievous newcomer who, for all the world, looks like Willie Nelson.

As my wife pointed out, consider the film an allegory. In building the walls that protect us from legitimate fears, we may also wall ourselves from the good and beautiful. Perhaps a not so subtle take on our time.

If a masterpiece, a simple poem unlocks heavy vaults of imagery. The simple animation of Secret of the Kells unveils a filmmaker’s complex vision: order from chaos, humor from fear, hope from the hot ashes of evil, and beauty everywhere. The Secret of Kells is a masterpiece.

The Secret of Kells plays this weekend at out beloved Gold Town Nickelodeon. And though a movie to be enjoyed by children and adults, some visions of Viking violence and hungry wolves are probably too much for the tykes. This is Clint Farr, Alone at the Movies.