opinion | Almost six weeks after its theatrical release, “The Banshees of Inisherin” is now available on Disney+. Perfect, because our editor Martin Arnold couldn’t wait to see the tragic comedy again. For him it is already the best film of the year.
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With a spectacular nine nominations, “The Banshees of Inisherin” was one of the big favorites at the 2023 Oscars. But director and screenwriter Martin McDonagh’s new work didn’t get any of the golden boys. And completely wrong! Because the tragic comedy, which since March 15 at Disney+ is available is a stroke of genius and without a doubt the best film of the young year.
That’s what “The Banshees of Inisherin” is about
Ireland, 1923: While civil war rages on the mainland, the simple-minded Pádraic (Colin Farrell) makes his way to his best friend Colm (Brendan Gleeson) on the (fictional) island of Inisherin, as he does every evening, to go to the pub with the older musician to go. But he dismisses him coldly. Colm then lets Pádraic understand that he doesn’t like him anymore and therefore doesn’t want to be friends with him anymore.
At first, the young farmer thinks it’s a joke. And so he keeps confronting his former friend. But then Colm gives him an ultimatum: If Pádraic continues to bother him, he will cut off a finger on his left hand every time. And so a catastrophe takes its course, which soon occupies the whole island…
The Banshees of Inisherin: An Allegory of Ireland – and Life
On the surface, “The Banshees of Inisherin” may be one weird comedy with all sorts of black humor act. But those who know director and screenwriter Martin McDonagh and his grandiose films (above all “See Bruges… and Die?” and “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”) know that there is much more to his work. So also in “The Banshees of Inisherin”.
Superficially, the Irishman processes the tragic comedy eventful history of his homeland based on the argument between the two friends. Because since the Emerald Isle was divided by the British in 1920 into the Protestant north and the Catholic south, it and its inhabitants have been torn apart. Regular uprisings and terrorist attacks by extremists from both parties made Ireland a hotbed of conflict in the decades that followed. The situation may have calmed down in the meantime, but tensions and the desire for a peaceful, united Ireland are still noticeable in many places.
At the same time, McDonagh celebrates his homeland in “The Banshees of Inisherin”. With the help of cameraman Ben Davis, he captures the beauty of the island with its martial cliffs and endless, lush green meadows. Pub culture is celebrated, as is Irish folk music. And McDonagh teases out the sympathetic peculiarities of the Irish in every scene. In addition, the screenwriter and director addresses the exciting folklore of the country in many places and plays with metaphors and symbols that are sometimes difficult for non-Irish people to understand. As an example the title: In Celtic mythology, banshees are a kind of spirit that herald impending death or disaster. The film pays tribute to this legendary figure in the form of the quirky Mrs McCormick (Sheila Flitton). Details like these make “The Banshees of Inisherin” so exciting that you want to book a trip to Ireland right away.
But that’s not all: One level of interpretation deeper, “The Banshees of Inisherin” unfolds a powerful kaleidoscope of themes that one rarely finds in a tragic comedy. Put simply, the film is also an allegory of life with all its facets. It’s about the ups and downs of friendship. Because you develop further and others can become strangers to you in old age – or vice versa. The film deals with the beauty of the familiar, but at the same time with its narrowness. He shows how important it is to follow your dreams and grow beyond yourself – even if it offends or offends family or friends. “The Banshees of Inisherin” is also about the search for the meaning of life and the fact that it is often found in the small things. Loneliness, grief, love, death and the legacy for posterity are also dominant themes in this film, as is the futility of spite and arrogance. “The Banshees of Inisherin” never comes along with a raised index finger, but rather shows: Every person, every life is different and has its own place in this world.
The perfect balance between comedy and tragedy
A screenplay that transports this variety of topics is simply a masterpiece. Martin McDonagh should have gotten all the awards in the world for it. The same goes for the actors. Colin Farrell has never been better. His simple-minded Pádraic is one of the most endearing characters in film history. Every time you see him, the sun rises in your heart. You suffer all the more with him when he’s feeling bad. Brendan Gleeson, who starred with Farrell in See Bruges…And Die? made a dreamlike duo is also terrific. As a thinker who constantly broods over the world and life and at the same time carries a deep sadness and bitterness, he knows how to inspire. On the one hand, he is despised for the way he treats Pádraic. On the other hand, one can understand his motives. After multi-faceted figures like these two one can only lick one’s fingers.
But not only they are spectacular. Kerry Condon as Pádraic’s sister Jenny is the voice of reason in “The Banshees of Inisherin” and a loving role model. As she follows her dream you have to shed a tear. Barry Keoghan is similarly engaging as Dominic. The deep sympathy one feels for him throughout the film proves once again that Keoghan is one of the best actors of his generation.
They’re all so strong that it’s actually a scandal that they haven’t won more prizes. How they keep the constant balance between comedy and tragedy, between laughter and tears, between joy and sadness is simply spectacular.
“The Banshees of Inisherin” is like life
In the end, “The Banshees of Inisherin” isn’t for everyone and anything but a feel-good comedy with a happy ending. Because although you can’t stop laughing for large parts of the film because of the ingenious screenplay and the phenomenal actors, the tragic comedy is also a punch in the pit of the stomach. There “The Banshees of Inisherin” is like life again: beautiful, sad, funny, shocking – but never boring despite all the ups and downs. And so in the end you leave “The Banshees of Inisherin” with a heavy heart and many thoughts, but also with a smile. And in 2023 no other film will probably conjure up this feeling so quickly.
The Banshees of Inisherin joined March 15th Disney+ accessible.