The Banshees of Inisherin is a tough, challenging film to watch. Its pace is mellow and landscape stark. Set in an imaginary island off the coast of Ireland during the last phase of the Irish Civil War in 1923, it’s an intense study of alienation and existential angst. It has shades of a black comedy but I don’t find self-mutilation and death funny. Dark, yes.
So, essentially for me, it boils down to angst that an unfulfilled life creates, a deep sadness that loneliness fosters and a madness that roams the isolated island where time stands still and there’s nothing much to do. The sea can be rough, the silence deafening! Boring is banal and can become a noose, and silence can haunt, to death.
A banshee is a woman of the fairy mounds and she wails when she foretells death. But is death a deliverance in this cerebral, metaphorical study of isolation? Is peace only a temporary solution?
Music lasts. It transcends time and nourishes generations. But why isn’t niceness enduring? What happens when a lifelong friendship breaks down, irretrievably? Are the two protagonists symbolic of brother versus brother battle in the civil war? Is it a study of still life, depression and mental health? Or is it a philosophical treatise on ruptures that grown men must face? Questions that have answers within.
The Banshees of Inisherin is a thought-provoking film, at times tedious in its unfolding but it’s a deeply moving account of disaffection and how the need to leave a legacy can take away even the liminal joy that life offers. Why play the fiddle when you can’t achieve greatness is almost like harbouring a death wish!
As The New York Times says: ‘This is a place, governed by the playful and perverse sensibility of the dramatist and filmmaker Martin McDonagh, where the picturesque and the profane intermingle, where jaunty humor keeps company with gruesome violence.’
Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson excel in this masterly film that examines the utility and futility of life on a sad, farcical canvas.
Where to Watch: Hulu, Amazon Prime, Disney+Hotstar, HBO Max