For my last installment on this topic, I will conclude with the animation which is, for me, perhaps the most compelling. The Secret of Kells by Tomm Moore is an interesting mix of history, cultural conflict, and spirituality, and its visual approach alone expresses these themes without words. The plot receives additional dimension by the inclusion of Aisling, the forest sprite. She injects an air of mystery, and her supernatural friendship with the boy, Brendan, is compelling.
The artistic style is based on the ornate style of the real Book of Kells, an illuminated manuscript that is regarded by some to be the greatest national treasure of Ireland. This marvelous document is on permanent display at the Trinity College Library in Dublin and can be viewed, page by page, in digital form on their website. I myself spent a fair amount of time admiring the workmanship of every page when I visited that site.
Another animation from Studio Ghibli that I would like to feature is The Tale of the Princess Kaguya by Isao Takahata. This is a reasonably faithful adaptation a real Japanese folktale titled The Tale of the BambooCutter. The artwork is wonderfully impressionistic and very emotional in tone. Okay, my wife didn’t like it that much because of its bittersweet ending, but there were a number of qualities that impressed me. These included insightful implications about how women are treated, the insincerity of high society, and the happiness and virtue associated with a simpler life spent close to nature and community.
But what particularly grabbed me was the scene with the “moon people” near the end. These eerily beautiful beings represent an inexorable supernatural force which is unaffected by the schemes of the human race. The imagery of this scene was adapted from actual Japanese folk art and was indeed striking, with the effect being magnified by the subtle yet powerful soundtrack music. For those who have been following my blog, it is by now obvious that I have a particular interest in artistic depictions of the spiritual. It is what fills the shells of factual knowledge, giving it warmth and depth. Without this perspective and this sense of life, the universe can feel hollow.
The world had changed out from under him before he was born. It seemed to some that Nathan had been designed for a different century. Possessed by a strange sense of loss, he longed for the ways and beliefs of his ancestors. His life was marked by difficulty with the expectations of others, and conflict pursued him despite his best efforts to avoid it. On the day this principled young man was expelled from high school for fighting to defend a weaker classmate, his parents decided to send him on a journey to the one place where he could discover his calling. From there, his path would ultimately lead to a series of confrontations with the supernatural predator that stalked an unprepared and vulnerable city.
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