Film for thought: The Secret of Kells

A special treat awaited The Link on Sunday evening. David had prepared an evening of film and discussion for us, helping us think about where our stories, the stories of faith, the stories of the ancient celtic people, and the story in this film weave together.

Take a look at the trailer here to get a taste of what we enjoyed:

The film itself is a PG, so we had a list of ‘parental caution’ sections for parents to help choose how to prepare their children, and we skipped the three most significant scary passages. But these are also beutifully animated, so you may like to catch up on what was missed with the YouTube clips below!

The Secret of Kells

“I have lived through many ages, through the eyes of a salmon, deer and wolf. I have seen the North Men invading Ireland, destroying all in search of gold. I have seen suffering in the darkness. Yet I have seen beauty thrive in the most fragile of places. I have seen the book, the book that turned darkness into light”

Thus opens the film… inspiring us to ponder darkness and light, and the power of the Book of Kells — a beautifully illustrated collection of the biblical accounts of the life, teaching, death, and new life of Jesus  that tells of God’s light and love.

In real life, the Book of Kells (sometimes known as the Book of Columba) is preserved in Dublin, Trinity College Library. It is believed to have been created c. 800 AD. It is a masterwork of Western calligraphy and represents the pinnacle of Insular illumination.


And so this film beautifully weaves together what we know of the story of Brendan… the book… and a cat (albeit one, in real life, that belonged to a different monk althought 🙂 )

“Pangur Bán is probably the most famous surviving poem from Early Ireland. Composed by an Irish monk sometime around the 9th century AD, the text  [shown below] compares the scholar’s work with the activities of a pet cat, Pangur Bán. It is now preserved in the Reichnenau Primer at St. Paul’s Abbey in the Lavanttal, Austria.”


Exploring the themes

Much of the opening sections of the film highlight how fear is a driving force. This raised questions for us about what we fear, how we balance risk and protection (for ourselves and for others), and how (when and if!) we should step outside into the darkness. Perhaps this quote from the young Brendan sums it up:

What if I get lost in the dark? If I keep thinking of the book I won’t be afraid of the dark…

As we ate our meal together, we pondered Brother Cellach’s behaviour: he believes the most important things is to complete his wall to keep out the North men. But is he right? What is driving him? Might anything be more important? And that got us talking about our own lives: what walls do we build to keep out the darkness….

In part 2, we watched Brenden start to overcome his fears, and meet with the mysterious Aisling. As we reflected on this section over our puddings, we asked what Brenden feared, and why, and what changed. But it also got us thinking about our own fears — things that might keep us from the work God has for us. Perhaps we think we are too young or inexperienced? History would suggest that God uses many people who’ve felt that way… which great effect! Brenden is just one example!

There must be someone else. You have to do it. I would ruin it!

The film continues with Aisling taking Brenden to the lair of the dark one, where he uses his skill at drawing to defeat the dark one and capture the eye of Crom Cruach. Take a look at what we skipped over:

When the North men do invade, it seems that all is lost. Here’s the section we skipped over…


But — without giving spoilers — somehow light comes into the darkness. This led us to ask how we might turn darkness into light. What journeys are we on?

Listening to the beautiful song of the cat, Pangur Ban, and reading David’s translation, prompted us to talk about who journeys with us. Sometimes there are things only we can do. Other times we can do them together.

Praying with Brenden

As we closed our gathering, we joined in the prayer traditionally attributed to Brenden:

“Help me to journey beyond the familiar
and into the unknown.

Give me the faith to leave old ways
and break fresh ground with You.
Christ of the mysteries, I trust You
to be stronger than each storm within me.

I will trust in the darkness and know
that my times, even now, are in Your hand.

Tune my spirit to the music of heaven,
and somehow, make my obedience count for You.”

Finally, we prayed our famliar closing blessing:


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