SONG OF THE SEA
As in The Secret of Kells, Tomm Moore draws on Celtic mythology. Tomm Moore tells how, while on holiday on the Irish coast, he was disturbed to see that the local fishermen were slaughtering seals believing them to be depleting the local fish stocks. This lead to his delving into the myths and legends that underlay the seals and to the stories of the selkies. Selkies are creatures from Irish and Scottish folklore that live as seals but shed their skins to become human. We have seen the occasional film dealing with the selkie before always tied to the legends of the Irish fishermen in John Sayles’ The Secret of Roan Inish (1994) and Neil Jordan’s Ondine (2009), even an Australian children’s film Selkie (2000).
Tomm Moore tells a fairly traditional story the message is the same one as ‘The Secret of Roan Inish of how the modern Irish have lost touch with their roots and legends and need to find a way back to a harmony with nature. The story is a familiar one of the two children on a mythic journey across country one that incidentally resembles another fine work about Irish legend and modern culture Into the West (1993). Tomm Moore gives it all the right degree of warmth, quirky offbeat touches and emotional upsurges, allowing everything to reach a lovely apotheosis.
What makes Song of the Sea work so beautifully is the artwork. Tomm Moore stated that he was influenced by the works of artists of the Der Blaue Reiter school like Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky, as well as traditional Irish landscape painter Paul Henry. The results are similar to the style that Moore adopted on The Secret of Kells where everything had a two-dimensionality this is a film where fairly much anything that denotes perspective has been flattened out and the characters are all stylised blocks and elongated curves or rounded moon faces with eyes. The backgrounds have a richness Moore doesn’t just offer an idealised version of Irish pastoral art but breaks it up with modern touches like power pylons across the fields, bus rides, the venture into a seemingly anarchic Dublin with people partying on the streets. In some of the more fantastical scenes, you are reminded very much of Hayao Miyazaki Moore has stated that My Neighbor Totoro (1988) is his favourite film and especially the worlds of eccentric characters that we have in Spirited Away (2001) Macha could easily be a sister to Yubaba from that film. The climactic scenes with the freeing of the faerie folk, the awakening of the giant and the return of the children’s mother often feels like Moore is channelling many parts of Princess Mononoke (1997) and are the most beautiful and touching in the film.
Elsewhere, Tomm Moore directed the On Love segment of Kahlil Gibrans The Prophet (2014).