Vatican Paper Looks at an Oscar Nominee's Message

«Secret of Kells» Set in 9th-Century Irish Abbey

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ROME, MARCH 18, 2010 ( A surprise nominee for best animated film at the Oscars is a «dream-like journey that speaks of sacrifice, gaining strength through suffering, reconciliation and hope,» according to a reviewer in L’Osservatore Romano.

Tania Mann took a look at the themes and messages of «The Secret of Kells» for a March 12 review in the Vatican’s daily.

Mann spoke with director Tomm Moore, who weaves the story of 12-year-old Brendan, an orphan in 9th-century Ireland. Young Brendan lives among the monks of the Abbey of Kells, who dedicate themselves to illuminating the Gospels.

The Book of Kells — an illuminated manuscript of the four Gospels — is regarded as one of Ireland’s national treasures. It is kept at Trinity College Library in Dublin, though it was kept for centuries at the Abbey of Kells.

«Whenever we were looking at the Book of Kells, a lot of people pointed out that it must have taken a certain meditative quality to create that work,» Moore reflected. «The monks would have had to be completely calm and focused, because it’s almost impossible to imagine how they created such detail with such rudimentary tools that they would have had at the time.»

The director explained to Mann that the film’s characters came from research on the manuscript, which reflects foreign influences in inks and designs.

Brendan’s character ventures into the forest outside the village walls, where he must face his own fears and external dangers.

The boy’s enemy is a pre-Christian deity from Irish legend, who appears as a snake-like creature eating his own tail. That symbol is another inspiration from the Book of Kells.

In his defeat of the creature, Brendan parallels St. Patrick, who brought an end to paganism in Ireland.

The film is animated in 2D, 95% hand-drawn and produced «without a lot of fancy computer equipment,» Moore told L’Osservatore Romano. «People are forgetting how magical it can be that just a pencil and a piece of paper can bring something to life.»

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