MANIFESTO

#61

ART NOW

The Banshees
of Inisherin

2023.02.02

Set on a remote island off the east coast of Ireland, The Banshees of Inisherin follows the story of two lifelong friends who have reached a stalemate in their relationship. The film explores the feelings of characters in which the audience can identify. 

Martin McDonagh returns to theaters with a new masterpiece nominated for nine Academy Awards, including that of best movie and best director, The Banshees of Inisherin. The world created by the director is a fictional island, Inisherin, where a small group of inhabitants spend their days in contact with the uncontaminated nature, walking between their home and the village pub. The producer Broadbent is on a flight departed from Buenos Aires and directed to Patagonia when he receives an email from McDonagh, with which he had already collaborated on In Bruges, Seven Psychopaths and Three Billboard Outside Ebbing. He quickly immerses himself in the story presented by the director and soon convinces himself to be a part of it, seeing how fun, sadness, and humanity live harmoniously within the same narrative. The film happens in 1923, time when the Civil War rages in Ireland. The island where the film takes place is not involved directly, but the tension present across the sea is also reflected in Inisherin which, even unconsciously, is overwhelmed by the malaise caused by the battles. In fact, the story opens with the image of Pádraic, played by Colin Farrell, happily walking around the island where he lives with his sister, Siobhán (Kerry Condon), but he doesn’t know that soon the balance of his days will be upset by an unexpected rupture in the friendship between him and his longtime friend Colm, played by Brendan Gleeson. Pádraic is at first shocked, then annoyed, and finally embittered: he can’t explain what could had happened to have caused the estrangement of his lifelong companion, who later explains that he no longer has time for frivolous things and he wants to devote himself completely to his passions, including music and in particular playing the violin. The inhabitants of Inisherin do not seem touched or bothered by the Civil War which continues on the other side of the coast, however, what happens on the small island reflects exactly what going on in the near continent: the distant sound of gunshots becomes real with the clear division between the two men who are fighting their own little personal war. 

Colin Farrell and Kerry Condon in the film THE BANSHEES OF INISHERIN.

“I think the divisions that infect the island and the ferocity of what happens in the film are reflected in the events taking place on the mainland. Everyone is trying to cling to their positions by allowing the divisions to take root and get worse.”

– Brendan Gleeson

The director finds a clever way to play with those feelings that everyone experiences in terms of a couple, such as having a broken heart or being rejected, but referring it to the sphere of friendship introduces an element of comedy. Colm indeed decides to embrace art and creativity as if they were the most important things in his life, despising and ending a relationship that has accompanied his daily life for years. Only terrible consequences develop from the breakup that soon change the lives of both: in fact, the film wants to remind people that taking negative or harmful decisions has a lasting effect on the own existence. McDonagh as he thinks about the narrative questions himself, as does the audience as they watch the film: how can you devote yourself to your life while neglecting your loved ones? Neither he nor the film provides an answer, but The Banshees of Inisherin investigates this interesting enigma, making the viewer side with one of the two characters, depending on his personality and character. After the break between the two, the community is also involved: the harmony that made the island unique is replaced by an inner and outer conflict. A combination of discord and madness, loss and suffering, with some laughter along the way. Farrell believes that all the characters in the film hide their struggles, sorrows and secrets by becoming archetypes brought together to create chaos. Everyone involved on the island seems to be a reflection of someone else’s torment, which is why an ugly affair between two friends becomes here the story of all the inhabitants, no one excluded: Siobhán’s life is consumed by reading, cooking, and loneliness, and he sees himself in Colm’s behaviors, analyzing them and realizing that something in his life must change sooner or later. 

Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson in the film THE BANSHEES OF INISHERIN.
Kerry Condon in THE BANSHEES OF INISHERIN.
Colin Farrell and Barry Keoghan in THE BANSHEES OF INISHERIN.
Kerry Condon and Barry Keoghan in THE BANSHEES OF INISHERIN.

“I wanted the side characters to have their own unique existences. Since in life each person is the main actor in his or her own film, you should treat all the side roles in this way.” 

 – Martin McDonagh

The characters are surrounded by natural beauty, but they are too busy being turned in on themselves and thinking about the rotten of the community. The actors when they reach the island for filming are captivated by the landscape, which is characterized by the green color of the grass and the blue of the sky. The location is also a character, and Condon says he felt like he was in paradise. Such a pure environment, with a slow pace of life, where the only noise seems to be that of the wind, stands in stark contrast to the violent, agitated and defeated personality of the characters. Animals in the course of the story also play very important roles, ending up being the only real companions in people’s life: for Pádraic it is a donkey, while Colm lives constantly next to his dog. Martin McDonagh leaves a lot of space for the characters involved in the story, outlining only a few characteristics and then giving the actors carte blanche to explore their personality during filming. In this way Farrell and Gleeson feel completely involved in the narrative and come to the conclusion that always anger causes anger, violence causes violence, and pain causes pain. Pádraic is so wounded that he acts and takes actions that he otherwise would have never even thought, while Colm experiences apprehension and pain that lead him to commit despicable acts. The Banshees of Inisherin has an innate spirituality: it is not simply telling the story of people, but exploring them in depth, encountering friendship, separation, and loneliness: human feelings with which the audience identifies and feels particularly touched, directly or indirectly.

 

For further information searchlightpictures.com.


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