Thursday, May 28, 2015

Song of the Sea

TIL there's a melancholic Irish mashup of Ponyo and Brave 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 whimsically 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 learned a long while ago is actually a horse goddess. There's no shortage of cliche fantasy art out there depicting her, and apparently no limit to the things she's a goddess of, so I guess everything is fair game.

In this film Mac Lir 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 of the two children in the story and his aged mother (conspicuously drawn as owl-like as possible) are their parallels. 

Watching these simply-drawn but genuine characters move about 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 sometimes 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 that lighthouse on the cliff, one of the becons in a creative night prolifically dotted with cold, mass-produced stars.

I would love to show this to a kid or kids I may or may not have one day; I felt like it was 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 as well. 
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: