Archive for the ‘Mythology’ Category

Song of the Sea

Thursday, March 5th, 2015

Song of the Sea

The new animated film Song of the Sea is an artistic triumph, and its strong connection to nature only enhances its power. The story is based on the legendary Selkie, a creature who can change from a seal to a human and back again. Inevitably this pulls in themes of the nature, humans’ relation to the sea, and what it means to be human ourselves.

The film was produced by Cartoon Saloon, whose first feature The Secret of Kells was reviewed on this blog a few years back. I don’t want to give away any of the wonderful surprises in the new film, but I will talk about three things that make it especially powerful in relation to themes of nature.

Song of the Sea

The folklore in the film draws from ancient tradition, and a time when stories were used to explain the mysteries of the world. By entwining the lives of humans and animals, folk tales convey an interconnectedness that is largely lost in today’s world. Science tells us more about nature than we ever knew before, but folklore lets us experience it on a more visceral level. In a recent interview, director Tomm Moore says, “I felt it important to reinforce that losing folklore from our everyday life means losing connection to our environment and culture.” The film manages to bridge all of these worlds very effectively.

Song of the Sea

Another way the film celebrates nature is through the animals. The big sheepdog, even though he doesn’t speak (which is refreshing in an animated film) is more perceptive than most of the humans, and serves as a link between the world of humans and the magical world of animals and fairies. The seals are another constant presence, beckoning the humans to sea, and helping them in their time of need. The film is populated with creatures of all shape and size, and the constant tug between land and sea is a central conflict and highlight of the film.

Song of the Sea

Finally, the visual style of the film is not only gorgeous to look at, but has an organic quality that helps convey the natural setting. The watercolor backgrounds evoke the watery world of the sea, as well as the damp hills and landscapes of Ireland. The geometric abstraction of Secret of Kells gives way to a softer, more organic design sense, though the strong shapes and patterns make each scene a marvel of beauty and design. Nature is built on pattern and form, and the style of the film conveys this beautifully.

Everything works together for the greater good of the story, which is not just about Selkies, it is about humans and families and never giving up on each other. We are all part of a bigger world, we are all connected, and that is a message worthy of any work of art.

For more information about the film, visit the official website.

 

Monsters of the sea

Thursday, July 1st, 2010

Arion by Albrecht Dürer - 1514

The ocean has always been shrouded in mystery because it is almost entirely hidden. Imagine a time before submarines and scuba gear, before ships ventured beyond the horizon. People literally did not know what was out there, above or below the surface, and had to rely on stories from sailors. It’s no wonder that myths and legends grew up around the sea.

But even as the ocean was a mysterious and hazardous place, it also inspired romantic notions of adventure and discovery. Even as people conjured up visions of sea monsters, they searched the world to prove their existence. The sea represented something just out of reach, something we wanted to know better.

And now in the twenty-first century, do we know the sea better? We know a lot more than we used to, but there is so much that remains a mystery, in some ways we are still like our ancestors, groping around in the dark.

Here are some images from artists long ago trying to depict the creatures of the sea. They come from a wonderful website called Strange Science where you can see more such monstrosities. These days we can photograph any animal we like, though an artist’s depiction can sometimes tell you a lot more, even those that come entirely from the artist’s imagination. Today we still try to imagine the things we cannot see, and probably always will.

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