“The Banshees of Inisherin”: tragic return to the land of Ireland

Oscar winner for “Three Billboards”, Martin McDonagh returns with a bloody comedy that is also a meditation on friendship. Powerful.

By Florence Colombani

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“The Banshees of Inisherin”
© DR

NOTe never trust the picturesque. The small (fictitious) island of Inisherin looks like a paradise: crystal clear water washes its beaches, the villagers chat pleasantly in the pub and play the traditional violin, the local accent colors the English language deliciously. However, this Irish paradise hides a very dark reality. For years, every afternoon, Padraig (Colin Farrell) and Colm (Brendan Gleeson) have met for a pint and a chat. Until the day when, without prior explanation or even triggering incident, Colm decides that their friendship is over. Never again will Colm share beer with Padraig. Worse, he now refuses to speak to him. Padraig gets worried then gets angry, he begs, begs, and throws those irresistible cocker spaniel looks that his interpreter Colin Farrell has the secret to… Nothing helps. Everything is over, and therefore everything begins.

Martin McDonagh was a playwright – one of the most fashionable on the contemporary Anglo-Saxon scene – before becoming a filmmaker. In this new film, he turns his back on the deep America he explored in the highly awarded Three Billboards (Oscar for best film 2018) to go back to basics. Ireland first, the country of his family, where he located some of his most famous pieces. And then the theater, because this shattered friendship, treated with the intensity that we usually reserve for a romantic breakup, allows an exceptional duo of actors to create a series of confrontations that we would imagine just as well on stage.

Chekhov’s rifle

This irresistible tandem formed by Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson, McDonagh had himself created it in Kisses from Bruges (2008), the picaresque adventure of two adrift hitmen. He therefore brings them together a second time… but to better break their beautiful understanding and pit them against each other. Each excels in his score: Brendan Gleeson (a figure familiar to the general public thanks to the role of Moody “Mad Eye” in the Harry Potter) as a big, unpredictable scoundrel, who, by claiming to want to develop his artistic sensibility, actually turns into violence… and Colin Farrell, unexpected as a vaguely simple-minded peasant, closer to his little domestic donkey than to his own sister (the role earned him the interpretation prize at the last Venice Film Festival).

Soon, no longer knowing how to extricate himself from Padraig who is chasing him for his untimely friendship, Colm warns him: the next time his ex-comrade in the pub speaks to him, Colm will cut off his finger. We understand well, according to the principle of “Chekhov’s gun”, that the threat will be carried out (“If in the first act you say that there is a gun hanging on the wall, then it is absolutely necessary that a fire is drawn with in the second or third act. If it is not intended to be used, it has no place there”, warned the author ofUncle Vanya). There is something like a sadistic drive at work in these Banshees. What began as a sardonic comedy about the impossibility of constraining the love of others turns into a bloody metaphor. Impossible, in fact, not to see in this film so rooted in the Irish context (we regularly hear explosions coming from the mainland) a representation of the centuries-old confrontation between Irish and British. Who are the enemy brothers Colm and Padraig if not these neighbors condemned to hatred? Martin McDonagh signs for this beginning of the year a strangely pessimistic film which reaffirms not only the topicality of this precise conflict… but also the fundamentally tragic nature of the relations between the men.


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“The Banshees of Inisherin”: tragic return to the land of Ireland

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