Song of the Sea ~ Animated Folklore Story Charms

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How it’s New York: Song of the Sea just finished a run at the IFC and is now showing at City Cinemas East (East Village on 2nd Ave.)
How it’s Irish: It is made and set in Ireland, and features an all Irish cast.

Based on the Irish myth about selkies ~ seals that shapeshift into humans – the extremely charming Oscar nominated, Song of the Sea written by Tomm Moore and Will Collins, and directed by Moore is running in City Cinemas East – nice and timely, when NYC embraces all things Irish for the month of March.

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The story is the classic search for identity using Ireland’s ancient mythology and connection with the natural and spiritual world as a vehicle. (I also saw aspects of the reverse in the story ~ a search for Ireland’s re~identification with it’s origin.) But the heart of the fairytale is the loss of a mother and the ensuing sibling rivalry between lead character, Ben, played but the wonderful David Rawle, and his little sister, Saoirse (Lucy O’Connell).
I had an opportunity to interview the director, Tomm Moore, this week, and he told me that the genesis of the story was a chance meeting with a local in the fishing village of Dingle, who told him that the brutal killing of the seals they came across on the beach would not have happened in the not too distant past. There was a respect for the sea creatures then she told him, as they were said to carry the souls of lost fishermen. Fascinated, he began to read whatever he could about the history of the seals and came upon the selkie stories in a 1920’s book.

The films opens with the Yeats poem, “The Stolen Child”, beautiful words, which gained popular exposure in the late 80’s, when The Waterboys used an excerpt on their “Fisherman”s Blues” album.

Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand
To a world more full of weeping than you can understand

The celtic group, Kíla provide the haunting soundtrack, and the voice of Bronagh, the mother figure, is played by Lisa Hannigan, who also sings on the soundtrack. As with much Irish work, music is never far from it’s core.

With the all star Irish cast of Brendan Gleeson, Fionnula O’Flanagan, Pat Shortt, John Kenny and Rawle, (who plays the child version of Chris O’Dowd in Moone Boy on Hulu), we are transported to a land of faeries and fantastic tales.

With the all star Irish cast of Brendan Gleeson, Fionnula O’Flanagan, Pat Shortt, John Kenny and Rawle, (who plays the child version of Chris O’Dowd in Moone Boy on Hulu), we are transported to a land of faeries and fantastic tales. Gleeson and O’Flanagan play dual roles, with Gleeson’s roles being written with him specifically in mind, Tomm he told me.

The 2D animation technique is a million miles from the world of Pixar and is all the better for it. He explained the process to me in detail (listen to the upcoming podcast for that!), but essentially, a lot of the work is hand drawn, some on paper, some using a stylus with a software package, and of course, there is some computer generated content ~ all in all, a hybrid of old and new is created to give the effect that has more in common with the toons most of us grew up with than what we have become used to in recent times. Moore talked about a visceral connection for kids watching something that they might potentially be able to produce themselves with a piece of paper and crayon.

We talked about some of the charming touches subtly weaved into the film from an Ireland that was steeped in ancient ways not so very long ago, such as the dock leaf as a herbal medicine that eases a nettle sting. He said the idea came to him and screenwriter, Will Collins, while reminiscing about their childhoods when they would play in the local Kilkenny woods.

Go see this wonderful Irish movie – bring your kids, leave them at home – it doesn’t matter, you will enjoy the hour and half transportation into a beautiful world of mysticism, heart and humor – with or without them.

Stay tuned for a podcast of the interview with Tomm Moore.

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Copyright 2015 New York Irish Arts
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