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Behind The Scenes Of The Banshees of Inisherin

5 min read
Banshees (2022)

For the release of Martin McDonagh’s tragicomedy, The Banshees of Inisherin, on streaming, FILMHOUNDS went along to the press conference to hear McDonagh, Colin Farrell, who plays Pádraic Súilleabháin, and his co-star Brendan Gleeson, who brings to life Colm Doherty, shed light on the production of the film, the nature of legacy and friendship, and more.

The conversation first turns to the key theme, and beautiful simplicity, of The Banshees of Inisherin, a friendship breakup between two men in a small community. McDonagh summarises exactly why this film is so heart-breaking; ”essentially, for me, this is a love story. It’s a love between men and platonic love. And that’s what makes it feel so wrenching, that this isn’t just a friendship, it really is a deep love that we see completely deteriorate in the confines of the story. It’s just so sad.” A timely movie for many despite being begun years ago, this original script having been scrapped, as we begin to leave a pandemic which tested many friendships. Of course, everyone loses a friend in some way at some time, however the pandemic seems to have accelerated this for many. However, for the film production itself, COVID-19 appeared to be a blessing, granting more time to prepare and according to Martin “everything went perfectly and we had a great time.”

Not only was the original script scrapped, but the original title was actually The Banshees of Inisheer, McDonagh reveals. Inisheer is the third and smallest of the Aran islands off the West Coast of Ireland, whereas Inisherin was made up for the movie. The decision was first made not to use the real island because, as McDonagh puts it, “it’s a beautiful island but it wouldn’t have given us the scope of the landscape of the basalt fields or the iron fort that that’s in some of the shots a […] there was too much modernity to the place.” They proceeded to film on two of the Aran Islands to get the right balance of landscape, and this choice offered other advantages, including not needing to worry about a specific accent and accuracies with regard to the Civil War being heard on the mainland.

Banshees (2022)

The conversation, inevitably, changed to discuss some of the key themes the movie tackles, even with its supposed simplicity. One such topic was the nature of legacy, one which is central to the movie as Colm hopes to leave a legacy in his music, while Pádraic, in one of the film’s most tense and touching scenes, argues kindness will leave a legacy enough for him. While Colin Farrell’s child brutally remarked to his father that nobody will remember him in 100 years, Farrell had insightful comments to make on the topic of his own legacy which was, interestingly, largely in keeping with his character’s perspective.

Whether art, in this case, a film is made for “purely entertainment purposes or for kind of some greater intellectual or social provocation” Colin says, “you just want to make something that people don’t waste an hour and a half or two hours of their lives on, as simple as that sounds. I think if you just do that and you live as authentically as you can in your life or in your art then the legacy takes care of itself really. Your legacy is your friendships and the people you touch.”

Brendan seemed to have a less harsh view on the matter than his character does, arguing that first and foremost “I do feel that the nature of art, good art, for me is generous.” Brendan goes on to argue that his art is “not therapeutic for me, it’s therapeutic for the audience, that’s the deal”, implying an interesting trade-off that Colm misses. He is cruel for the sake of his art, and does it because it is therapeutic for him, and will be his legacy, although Brendan does seem sympathetic to Colm overall; “him trying to finish a tune that will be beautiful, that would last in the ages, is his gift to the world. He’s thinking of it in terms of his own legacy. But I think that’s a legacy that is built from a conscience where he feels he needs to give back. I don’t think Colm understands the level of grief or damage that he has actually wrought on somebody as beautiful as Pádraic.”

Banshees (2022)

Neither of the two main characters is excusable, this film offers us no easy answers or good and bad sides to root for. Brendan explained the difficulties of filming such a tragic tale in an interesting way, which also conveys the difficulty of separating your character from yourself in some ways, stating that “Our job is to make each other’s lines as difficult as possible to say because I’m looking at somebody whose heart is visibly breaking, and trying to tell him, there’s no place in my life for him anymore.”

While Colm breaks Pádraic’s heart by inexplicably cutting him off, Farrell explains “I [Pádraic] lose the sister, I lose the friends, I lose any kind of standing in the community. I don’t represent innocence. I’m more than a willing participant in my own downfall […] But Barry’s character Dominic and very much Jenny are two innocents that really suffer as a result of this kind of very, very kind of contained civil war between me and Colm.”

As heartbreaking as it is to watch how much the two men hurt each other, and themselves ultimately, in the wake of this break-up, the consequences on these innocents, as Farrell puts it, are often even more difficult to watch and where the true tragedy comes in. In such a small community as the one on Inisherin, nobody is immune to the fallout from this emotional altercation, and we see characters wisely and deliberately taking a step back, such as Pádraic’s sister Siobhán, played by Kerry Condon.

Whether we can justify Colm and Pádraic’s actions or not, inevitably McDonagh, Farrell, Gleeson, and the rest of the cast and crew of The Banshees of Inisherin have created a wonderful film which will contribute to the legacy of each of them. The film also led each of them to consider their own friendships, and the collateral damage being an artist entails, the kind of reflection it is difficult to avoid after watching The Banshees of Inisherin, never mind bringing it to life.

The Banshees of Inisherin is available to stream now on Disney+.