Martin McDonagh returns to directing with The Banshees of Inisherin, which reunites Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson.
The Banshees of Inisherin by Martin McDonagh is once again the saddest film which, however, can’t help but make you laugh at the melancholies and absurdities of the miserable characters and paradoxical situations it tells: it’s Martin McDonagh to the nth degree, and it’s a great work that plays on expectations and their reversal.
The most obvious is that represented by the two main characters, Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson, familiar faces from McDonagh’s spoken word cinema who are reunited here several years after the cult In Bruges with characters very similar to the two hired killers on the verge of a nervous breakdown in that film, which, however, here immediately break away from the cliché of drinking buddies: it will be the folk of the Irish hills (which we find again after the splendid The Wonder of Sebastian Lelio), which legends want haunted by ‘the banshees of inisherin’, but the fuse that starts the film is really the end of their friendship, which erupts inexplicably out of the blue. As if something happened between the two of them before the opening credits, or between films: an shot that acts at an unconscious, subliminal level on the viewer, and sets up a bone-chilling wind chill tragicomedy that always seems icy even in the warmth of the pub, even in front of the fireplace.
The whole story is set on an island, an other world by its nature ‘detached’ from the rest of reality, a proscenium on which to act: the quarrel at the center of the story becomes a clear metaphor for an outward war that belongs to all the people (from their stage, from their island – McDonagh comes from the theater and watching his films there is no need to reiterate this – the characters will look again and again at the shores of the mainland, drawn by the flashes of the gunfire and explosions of the Civil War of 1923) but this author is too good and too non-banal to be drawn into the swirls of easy allegories.
Martin McDonagh’s Microcosm.
Thus, in a film that once again brings back its own setting in its title to highlight it and give it the role of the real protagonist (In Bruges, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri), that setting is used by McDonagh for the creation of a microcosm in his image and likeness, in which everything that happens seems preordained because he decides it and what we see, and the characters we meet, however absurd are always perceived as profoundly real because it is McDonagh who sees them that way: they are real when the author looks at them, when we look at them, and even when their pets look at them (not only the donkey Jenny, who is as moving as Jerzy Skolimowski’s EO, but also Brendan Gleeson’s little dog) as if the absurd conflict that brings them to confrontation is as serious for the two main characters as it is incomprehensible to everyone else.
Special mention for the landscape, which makes The Banshees of Inisherin Martin McDonagh’s most personal film: in the gradual and inevitable escalation between the characters, which is also a clash of approaches to acting (from Gleeson’s minimalism to Farrell’s expressive eyebrows), gothic glimpses of the ‘stormy peaks’ of the Irish islands speak of a situation that is immutable, and consequently impossible to resolve, such as conflicts (external and internal) and the mysteries of life. That is the reason why we mention it in our ranking of the best films of 2022.