Thursday, May 28, 2015

Song of the Sea

TIL there's a melancholic Irish mashup of Ponyo and Brave that's based on Celtic folklore.

The screenshots I took are a little blurry because I couldn't pause the player I was using without having the playbar and other things appear, but I mean, wow. Everything in this movie was meticulously planned and gloriously executed.

It centers around the selkie - the Nordic and British Isles variant of the mermaid - who is half human and half seal. Like mermaids, selkies are also beautiful, haunting muses.

Wiki'ing the other two main elements of the traditional folklore so wonderfully depicted in this visually arresting film led me down a pretty deep rabbit hole of medieval tales that I'll have to pursue when I'm not tired from coughing all night: they are the Irish sea god Manannán mac Lir and his mother Macha who, I once randomly learned, is actually a horse goddess. There's no shortage of cliché fantasy art out there dedicated her, and apparently no limit to the things she's a goddess of, so I guess any and every theme and form is fair game.

In this film, a father of two has been deliberately turned into the solemn stone cliff (atop which the main characters' lighthouse sits, appropriately enough) by his owl witch mother, because he sobbed and suffered so greatly after losing his love that she took all of his feelings so he wouldn't be in pain anymore. 
The father and his aged mother - conspicuously drawn as owl-like as possible - are the parallels or representations of Mac Lir and Macha. 

Watching these simply-drawn but genuine characters move through swirling, painted landscapes and rooms while living out and trying to cope with profound feelings of loss and resentment is deeply touching. 
I've made posts before commenting on what all too often seems like the slow and tragic death of animation as a serious artform as a wave of generic CGI continues to wash over everything, but this animation studio is very much that lighthouse on the cliff, one of the beacons in a creative night dotted with cold, mass-produced stars.

I would love to show this to a kid I may or may not have one day; it felt like an instant classic. You can read a bit more about it and see some of the concept art here.

Interestingly, this comes from the same studio that did The Secret of Kells, and this summer, they're starting on an adaptation of The Breadwinner, the award-winning Deborah Ellis youth novel about an adolescent Afghan girl who poses as a boy so her family can survive in recently-Taliban-taken-over Afghanistan. It was quite good, though it would've been better if I could've found the two subsequent parts online, too. 
Anyway, a departure from these Celtic traditions is really interesting and kind of unexpected. I'm looking forward to it.

Here's the trailer for Song of the Sea:

And the pleasant, soothing soundtrack, which you'll especially like if you're the kind of person who likes going into New Age shops where they're burning Nag Champa and playing Enya:

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