English Reviews

Irish Folklore Trilogy : The amazing blend of mythology, history and breathtaking imagery!!

Cartoon Saloon, the irish animation studio started its journey a decade before its first animated feature film, the secret of Kells (2009), the first installment of its unofficial Irish Folklore Trilogy. The movie bagged oscar nomination in 2010 and the studio went on to repeat the feat with the next installments of the trilogy, Song of the sea (2014) and Wolfwalkers(2020). While all three movies might have lost to the giants Pixar-Disney at the Oscars, one will have to admire the amount of work that has gone into these movies and admit atleast two of those should have won it at the Oscars. All three of them are blend of irish myths, history, enchanting folk songs and some breathtaking colour palettes. The movies use amazing imagery which resembles hand drawing or paintings, undoubtedly inviting our attention to the colours, objects and the backgrounds.

The secret of kells (2009) is directed by Tomm Moore and Nora Twomey, the co-founders of the studio and is set in 9th century Ireland, during the viking expansion. Story revolves around Brendan, an orphan who lives in the Abbey(community of Monks) of Kells under the supervision of his stubborn uncle, the Abbot(the leader of the Abbey) Cellach. While the Abbot was busy building a fortress around the Abbey to defend the Vikings, Brendan was secretly working as an apprentice at the scriptorium of the Monastery. When the famous illuminator Aidan joins them at the scriptorium Brendan was tasked to help Aidan in finishing his mysterious Book of Kells, which can guide them to light from darkness. Entire movie has an intentional green tone about it which blends perfectly to the characters and objects. The old Irish poem ‘Pangur ban’ (white cat) stands out among the enchanting music tracks.

Song of the sea(2014) is my favourite of the three and tells the poignant tale of Ben, who’s mother disappears at his young age and discovers his mute sister is a Selkie(human who turns to seals when in water). Ben has to help her rediscover her voice and make her sing to release all the fairies who have turned to stones by the spell of an owl witch called Macha. Reminiscing our Classic bedtime fables, the movie takes us to a wonderland of fairies, magic, witches, owls etc. The movie is full of emotions, some sequences mysteriously calm and Tomm Moore brilliantly uses the blue palette for the entire movie with some soulful music. Lisa Hannigan’s ‘the song’ plays such an integral part here, it blends to the whole plot in such a way that it plays in your mind even when it is not played on screen.

Tomm Moore collaborates with Ross Stewart for the last segment of the trilogy, Wolfwalkers(2020) which is currently streaming on Apple TV+. Set against the backdrop of English colonization of Ireland, Wolfwalkers tell the story of Robyn Goodfellow, a young apprentice hunter and her father who is tasked to hunt down the last wolfpack in Ireland. This is the most colourful of the three and though the general tone is orange, the entire movie is so colourful and takes the experience to the next level. The plot is masterfully knitted with history, myth, fantasy, friendship and current relevance.

The makers have announced that this is the last piece of the irish folklore atleast for the moment and all we can do is wait for the next from the production house and hope they break their oscar jinx the next time reviving the good old hand drawn animation. The breadwinner (2017) and Late Afternoon(short) were the other movies from Cartoon Saloon that won the nominations at the oscars and sadly missed out.

By sreenathjvm

I am a healthcare professional. An ardent movie lover. Writing about movies forever has been an obsession.

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