There are no fantastic or supernatural elements in the spirits of the islandalthough its original title, The Banshees of Inisherin, indicates a very particular class of entities from other worlds. Banshees have been part of Irish folklore since ancient times, female souls in pain who announce and sometimes anticipate the death of a relative with their powerful cries. Strictly speaking, the banshees are conspicuous by their absence in the new feature film by British-Irish filmmaker and playwright Martin McDonagh, although an old woman who lives on the small island of Inisherin where the action takes place – a fictional place created by the author to the occasion – could be a human descendant of those creatures, despite the fact that their announcements of catastrophe are based on the strictest common sense. Director of 3 ads for a crimethe film that won two Oscars in the 2018 edition, brings together the protagonists of his debut film Hiding in Bruges, Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson, fourteen years after the premiere of that particular black comedy with police overtones. The dark humor, the slightly or ostentatiously eccentric characters, are once again present in his most recent creation, but McDonagh –whose theatrical career is widely known internationally, including the passage through Corrientes Avenue in one of the most celebrated plays of the, The Pillowman– now travels to the past of his parents’ lands (he was born and raised in London) to narrate the break in the friendship between two men. The situation is that of the bloody civil war that devastated the Irish territory between 1922 and 1923, immediately after the War of Independence, between the provisional government and the factions that opposed a treaty with the British Empire, linked directly or indirectly with He will go. While there in front, from the other side of the waters, come the loud sounds of explosions and cannon fire, the peace of the quiet and sparsely inhabited island of Inisherin is shaken by something that seemed impossible a priori: the unilateral rupture without possibility reversing a bond of friendship that had existed for decades and that, from one day to the next, seems to have ended. The metaphorical relationships between the historical context and the fictional story are more than evident.
“It’s the simplicity of telling a story about a breakup and being as honest as possible when it comes to showing the pain that comes with it,” Martin McDonagh said at an international press conference, reflected in an article on the website Collider. “Above all, that. Mirroring it and juxtaposing it to the Irish Civil War helped to bring in interesting metaphorical angles, to show how a simple separation can lead to horror, to war, to unforgivable acts. But the initial impulse was to capture the sadness of that separation.” Without fear of mistakes the spirits of the island could be described as a fable about the end of friendship. Or about the end of a relationship, whatever it may be. However, the ever-widening rift between two friends, proud men and inhabitants of a tiny Irish island, offers different characteristics from those of the end of a traditional couple. It all begins with images of the relentlessly green countryside and Pádraic Súilleabháin’s (Colin Farrell) walk from his house to the home of his friend, Colm Doherty (Brendan Gleeson), a journey that feels similar to any other day on any other day. year. From there, Pádraic thinks, they will go to the pub together, like every day at two in the afternoon, to drink a few pints of the only black beer available. At natural temperature, as dictated by the rules. But that day Colm doesn’t answer his buddy’s call and when he crosses the threshold of the door worriedly he receives such an unusual response that it puts him on alert. Is his friend sick? How do you think of altering a routine that hasn’t changed for years, that daily encounter for which they seem to live, apart from herding tasks and other work activities? It is true that Colm is older than Pádraic and is already close to retirement age, but is it possible that he is depressed to the point of rejecting the presence of someone who has shared drinks and chats every day?
The answers to these unknowns come a few minutes after the screening. A sentence as simple as brutal. Colm wants to leave something to the world, to compose a melody with his violin that serves as an artistic and human legacy, and for this he can no longer waste time on superficial conversations. That’s why he doesn’t want to continue being friends with Pádraic. Friendship is a choice, Colm says, and he no longer wants to choose it. Full stop, end, it’s over. Pádraic, who lives with his sister Siobhán (Kerry Condon), an intelligent and cultured woman who finds the confines of the island increasingly stifling, and a miniature donkey that is both a companion animal and a pet, does not make up her mind. of his ex? friend as what he is. Perhaps it is a joke or a passing whim. a stage. Advice from young Dominic (Barry Keoghan, another of Ireland’s indispensable acting talents), the “village idiot”, son of the local police officer, also fails to penetrate Pádraic’s tough skin. It’s impossible, how is he going to want to stop being his friend? Not even the threat of Colm, who promises to cut off a finger every time the other speaks to him again, can stop him. Until one day he hears a snap. Something that has hit the door of his house, a stone or perhaps a bird that has lost its orientation. “Pádraic cannot understand why Colm no longer wants to be his friend and does not intend to accept it,” says McDonagh in the production notes sent to the local press before the film’s premiere in theaters, next Thursday, February 2. . “It is similar to what one feels when he is abandoned in a relationship. It’s interesting to see who the audience identifies with. Can they understand the tough stance Colm has taken, or can they relate to the kind person whose heart was broken? Do you decide to dedicate yourself completely to being an artist and leave friends, lovers and family behind? The job is the most important thing and it doesn’t matter who gets hurt doing it? It is a debate that is not answered by me or by the film. I don’t think you have to beat yourself up or be a dark or hateful person to make any kind of art, even the darkest art. But I definitely think the film explores that interesting dilemma.”
McDonagh’s stage work includes the so-called “Aran Islands Trilogy”, composed of Inishmaan’s cripple (1996), E.l lieutenant of Inishmore (2001) and The Banshees of Inisheer. The latter remains unpublished and, despite the similarity in the titles, bears no relation to his latest feature film (on the other hand, it should be noted that Inishmaan, Inishmore and Inisheer are real places, three islands belonging to Ireland located in the mouth of Galway Bay). The director took over the script from the spirits of the island during the hardest days of the covid19 pandemic, a global event that has been reflected more or less directly in dozens of film projects, but here it takes on less literal characteristics. In the aforementioned interview with ColliderDirector of seven psychopaths –another film with Colin Farrell in front of the cast– recalls that “that feeling that Colm feels, the idea that he could be wasting his time, was a thought that crossed my mind during the pandemic. The notion of an insular community grappling with existential issues could not but be influenced by the way real life readjusted all the time. What were we going to do once that hiatus was over? Would we continue to live as before or would we hurry a little to make up for lost time? In that sense, McDonagh believes that therein lies an important question regarding the radical change in the way of seeing life and friendship on the part of Colm. “Why is it so harsh at the very beginning of the movie? Is what he tells his friend true or is it just the only way he has to make the separation happen? Those discussions are embedded in the scenes that follow, with different dynamics and tones. He’s not just some guy saying ‘I don’t want to be friends with you anymore,’ but there’s something much more subtle about it.” There’s plenty of humor (and plenty of black humor) in the film, especially when the narrative starting point begins to wind up and take the bizarre confrontation between the former sidekicks to unimaginable limits, but the sense of sadness, of irreparable loss, begins to be every ever more important.
The ensemble portrait opens up to several subplots – Siobhán’s desire to go out and see the world and leave the atavistic universe of the island, Dominic’s relationship with his abusive police father, the comments of the gossipy employee of the local general store , the link between Pádraic himself and his donkey, the war off screen but inevitably present–, but the nerve center of The Banshees of Inisherin it is the fall from grace of what seemed iron, perennial, immortal: the friendship between those two men. If all the critics of the film published since its world premiere at the Venice Festival agree on something, even those that have negative points to highlight regarding the story and its forms, it is the remarkable performance of the duo of Irish actors, three decades after their first pairing in hiding in witches. Nothing strange coming from Gleeson, who in each of his appearances in supporting roles is able to raise the level of what is being narrated without too much effort. The case of Farrell, whose career has been much more unbalanced in terms of acting, is notable here. Beyond the strong English accent that he pronounces in homes, roads and places and the feeling of simplicity that seems to surround the inhabitants of Inisherin, the protagonist of Alexander the Great manages to transmit in the moments of greatest emotional intensity an enormous range of diverse emotions, often found. A stupor that is giving way to unease and sadness, a pride that begins to turn into anger and even hatred. In a place where nothing seems to change too much, where routines are respected and the place of each inhabitant seems firmly anchored to the ancestral soil, Pádraic and Colm are no longer quiet men.