‘THE Banshees of Inisherin’ won the best actor Volpi Cup award for Colin Farrell at the Venice Filmfest last year. He won it in a tie with our own John Arcilla for “On the Job 2”. The best actress award was won by Cate Blanchett for “Tar”. Now, both Colin and Cate won again in the recent Golden Globe Awards. “The Banshees of Inisherin” is the kind of film that critics would love for being complex and layered. It’s set in a quaint little fictional Irish island called Inisherin and features quirky, idiosyncratic characters that look like they’re living deadend lives.
It is written and directed by an acclaimed British-Irish playwright who has turned into a filmmaker, Martin McDonagh, known for his absurd black humor on stage and for the Oscar-winning movie “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”.
“Banshees” stars Colin Ferrell and Brendan Gleeson, who have worked with Martin in his 2008 directorial debut, “In Bruges”. Set in 1923 during the Irish Civil War, Colin plays Pádraic Súilleabháin (don’t ask us how to pronounce that) and Brendan is Colm Doherty.
They’re supposed to be drinking buddies and lifelong friends, but all of a sudden, Colm starts ignoring Padraic, almost like a spouse who has grown tired of his longtime partner. He even tells Padraic never to speak to him again.
At first, Padraic thought he’s just joking but it looks like he has just evaluated his life and has realized that Padraic is dumb. He now wants to devote his life to writing a song for which he will be remembered by posterity.
Padraic becomes so hurt and disconcerted and tries to humor Colm who tells him that each time he approaches him and talk to him, he will cut off one of his own fingers. Since Padraic won’t give up that easily, Colm eventually loses all of his fingers in one hand.
For local viewers who look at life more simply, this would be a very stupid act. Why would anyone want to mutilate his own self just to persuade a former friend to stay away from him? But that’s this eccentric film’s weird conceit so let’s grant it to them.
What we like most in the film is its depiction of basic life a remote, little village where people are closely knit and knows everyone by name. They earn a living by farming and caring for their animals. Padraic’s other best friend is his donkey named Jenny.
People pass the time reading books (like Padraic’s brighter sister, Siobhan, superbly played by Kerry Condon), playing music (like Colm who plays the violin) and hanging around in the town’s only pub where they meet regularly to chat with friends.
Things get from bad to worse when Padraic’s sister got sick of the drab life on the island and moves to the mainland. His pet donkey Jenny also died after choking on one of the fingers of Colm that was thrown in their yard.
So stressed and heartbroken, Padraic tells Colm that he will burn down Colm’s house to avenge Jenny’s death. Things really get more absurd, just like the film’s title, which is the title Colm gave to the song he composed.
A banshee is a female spirit who wails to warn people when someone is about to die. There are no banshee’s in their island but there is an old crone who acts like a seer with her prophecies of doom, Mrs. McCormick (Sheila Flitton), who correctly predicted the death of Dominic (Barry Keoghan), Padraic’s equally dim friend who proposed marriage to his sister Siobhan and is understandably rejected.
Other viewers may find them funny but honestly, we cannot offer compassion to the troublesome protagonists of the movie and how they behave. We really couldn’t care less that their toxic friendship has ended and that Colm lost all his fingers that actually proves he’s much dumber and more irrational than his friend who he finds dull.
If you want to sound deep, you can say it’s an allegory about the failings and limitations of humanity. As exemplified by the priest who tries to intervene about Colm’s breaking up with Padraic.
But it doesn’t go well because the priest himself loses his patience on Colm. Well, we’re all just human, after all. But the fact remains that the film is well acted and looks like that Colin is now poised to win his first Oscar. It also has a great musical score and is visually pleasing, capturing the gorgeous panoramic vistas of the untamed island.