Explaining Why The Banshees of Inisherin is the Movie of the Year

Explaining Why The Banshees of Inisherin is the Movie of the Year
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I mean this literally – I will be explaining Why The Banshees of Inisherin is the Movie of the Year. Because I’m betting that The Banshees of Inisherin will not only be underrated, it’ll be trash-rated, and filed in a bin and forgotten. But we will not allow that, my friends. Not only is Banshees of Inisherin the new King of the Hill for THiNC. – it’s also going to be the Movie of the Year. I mean, I guess a film could depose it in the next week or two. …. but that’s not going to happen. So, there you have it – Merry Christmas, you have a wrapped gift under the tree from THiNC. The Banshees of Inisherin is your new must see.

You remember my total mental melt down after CY recommended I watch In Bruges?? It also had the high honor of hosting Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson… right? You’ve seen it, you know. Wait. You haven’t seen it? In Bruges. NAhhhh. You’ve seen it. You have to have seen it. Because we are friends, you and I. And I would never let friends go through life without watching In Bruges. (So, subtle hint… go watch it pronto.) But where Banshees of Inisherin goes all sorts of next level is that not only does it have Colin Farrell (of The Lobster, Killing of a Sacred Deer, In Bruges fame, etc.) and Brendan Gleeson, but it also includes the majestic, the glorious, THE LITERALLY PERFECT: Barry Keoghan. Keoghan was one of the scariest acts ever when he played counter to Colin Farrell in The Killing of a Sacred Deer. But he’s also been barnstorming in The Batman, and Dunkirk… but I really loved him across from Dev Patel in The Green Knight.

But why is it the THiNC. Movie of the Year, I hear you asking through your mobile phone. Ayyyye. Patience already! Let’s walk through it, and THEN IT’LL BE OBVIOUS. Sheesh. Hahaha.

The Back Story of The Banshees of Inisherin Movie

It’s the year, 1923… and the year is critical. Why? Because it happens be set at the tail end of the Irish Civil War. And the Irish Civil War followed the Irish War of Independence. And that was a guerrilla war fought from 1919 to 1921 between the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and Britain. Okay? At the end of that war – the former, not the latter – it established the Irish Free State. (An entity outside of the United Kingdom, but within the British Empire… right?) But a faction of Irish people, the Irish Republican Army… or the IRA disagreed with this new Anglo-Irish treaty.

Okay. Is the larger thrust of the movie making a little more sense now? You should already be extrapolating lots of things about this movie with that added context. No? Gracious. Paint-by-numbers much? The Irish people fought for their Independence, only to be entrapped by the British Empire. The provisional government, the IRA believed, sold out in a horrible betrayal of the Irish people. And so, at this particular moment in history where the movie is, 1923, we watch as the men who fought together against Britain, ultimately began fighting each other. It is this Civil War that created deep gouges in the Irish society that still exist to this day. The Civil War, which was nearly over at the point of the movie, was won by the pro-treaty forces. Worse, the pro-treaty forces were supplied enormous numbers of weapons by the British Government to help push them over the edge. And to this day, the two main political parties come from this conflict. And, to this day, there have been countless deaths that have gurgled out of this chaotic initial genesis.

Explaining Why The Banshees of Inisherin is the Movie of the Year

Inisherin… happens to be a fictional island. Which, is interesting in and of its own right. But regardless, there on Inisherin, Colm Doherty suddenly, and without explanation, begins ignoring his long-time friend. Pádraic Súilleabháin, Colm’s long-time buddy and drinking mate is dumbfounded at the treatment he is receiving from Colm. But as the movie starts to unspool a bit we start to get the realization that Colm wants to dedicate his life composing music, and spend time on things that will ultimately last long after he is gone. Pádraic is – in a word – agog at the treatment. He’s been perfectly interestingly enough up til now, where could he have suddenly gone so wrong over the course of a single day? And the more Pádraic becomes unhinged at this treatment from his longtime friend, the more utterly resistant Colm becomes to even talk to his old friend. So much so, that Colm gives Pádraic a last ultimatum. Every single time that Pádraic decides to talk to him regardless of the reason, Colm will cut one of his own fingers off. (Reminds me of the Four Rooms conceit from Quinton Tarantino … you know, the lighter that never fails to light? Don’t know it? Here, you have to check it out – amazing dialog for Bruce Willis and Tim Roth.) Gruesome… but necessary? Because Pádraic is just the definition of dull, and Colm just can’t stand the guy anymore.

Now, Siobhán, Pádraic’s sister tries to play intermediary, determined to put the temporary fire out. But every attempt that she makes is useless. Colm is entrenched, and Pádraic is beyond incensed with how he is being treated by his old best friend. So, Pádraic, clearly sure how to move this impassable impasse forward, decides to apologize to his old friend. Well, as a result, Colm sheep shears one of his fingers off (his index finger on his non-bow hand) and chucks it at Pádraic’s front door. Yikes. Wait, hold on, he cuts his own finger off in order to attempt to punish Pádraic? Isn’t that the definition of insanity? Yes, and it also is deeply embedded in the possible meaning and understanding of this movie. (Civil Wars… entrenched and recalcitrant segments of the same friends?)

At the same time, we have an old crone, Mrs. McCormick – like something out of a Shakespearean tragedy – that death will soon come to the island. Uh. Is she referring to Colm? Or maybe Pádraic? It’s unclear really who she might be meaning, but we know there is some leather to her prophecy. Now Dominic (Barry Keoghan), who is quite taken with Siobhán decides he’s going to to shoot his shot… right now, in the midst of the chaos between Siobhán’s brother and Colm. But then she sweetly, and really gently, turns down his romantic overtures. Also, Siobhán begins looking for work on the mainland, tired of the small town life and chaos. And she eventually finds work for a library in Ireland’s mainland. But before she leaves, she invites Pádraic to come with her… but the utter grief and despair of his current circumstances overrides his ability to think clearly. And so he turns his sister down.

Colm, at the same time, completes writing the music for the song that he wants to be his legacy. After some prodding by Dominic who convinces Pádraic that when he stood up for himself in the bar, Colm actually thought you were the least boring you’d been in a long time. Huh. So Pádraic forcefully goes and talks to Colm quite easy to talk to. And it’s during this conversation that Pádraic learns that the violin tune is complete, and that he’d entitled it “The Banshees of Inisherin.” But as Pádraic is walking away, he outright tells Colm that he had lied to one of the musicians and convinced him his Aunt had been hit by a Bread Van and that he needed to leave. And with that, Colm decides to cut the rest of his fingers off his left hand. Colm walks up to Pádraic’s house, and chucks each one at the door to his house. And it’s when Pádraic’s miniature donkey tries to eat one of Colm’s fingers, who then chokes on it and dies. Welp, Pádraic’s one true love in this world – is his donkey Jenny. And now, Pádraic is heartbroken.

Now, they were Colm’s fingers that his donkey choked on, so obviously it was Colm’s fault that caused Jenny to die. And even Colm is very sorry for hurting Jenny – so much so that while at confession he confesses to killing the donkey and says that he feels badly about it. Pádraic, informs Colm that he will be burning his house down the next day as a result. (Which, you gotta admit… makes all kinds of sense (???)) And true to his world, Pádraic sets fire to the house, and notices that Colm is still inside. But Pádraic saves Colm’s dog, and brings him to his house in order to keep the dog from harm.

About the same time, the town’s policeman, Dominic’s father, Paeder, is called over by Mrs. McCormick to find his son floating in the lake. Obviously, Dominic, so distraught from the rebuffing he took from Siobhán, he killed himself by walking into the lake. Pádraic takes Colm’s dog back towards Colm’s home and finds Colm standing on the beach. Colm attempts to ask forgiveness for Jenny’s accidental death… and tells Pádraic that they are now even with the burning down of the house. But Pádraic lets Colm know that the only way that they would be even after Jenny’s death is if he had stayed in the house. As the movie ends, Pádraic turns to go, and Colm thanks his ex-friend for looking after his dog. Pádraic responds, “Any time.” The end.

Let’s Review All the Unanswered Questions of The Banshees of Inisherin

Question #1 – What are the Banshees of Inisherin

I actually have not even the beginnings of a clue on this one. (Yes, not off to a great start. Granted.) But I’ll have a scratch at a guess. When Pádraic busts in to give Colm a “slagg’n” he asks him what the violin piece is called. Colm says, “The Banshees of Inisherin.” Pádraic responds with, “But there are no Banshees of Inisherin”… and Colm says, “I know, but I just like the double ‘sh’ sounds.” And Pádraic says… “There are plenty of double ‘sh’ on Inisherin.” And Colm responds with, “Maybe there are plenty of Banshees too. But I don’t think they scream to portend death anymore, maybe they just sit back, amused, and observe. I keep having thoughts about playing it at your funeral, but that wouldn’t be fair to either of us, wouldn’t it?”

There’s a lot happening in that dense exchange of dialog. But we get the film’s definition of what a Banshee even is… right? Portenders of death… but also screamers. And, if that is the case, then wouldn’t you say that Mrs. McCormick is a Banshee? A Banshee of Inisherin? She portends death. She foretells of Dominic’s death, doesn’t she? She was super general in her portending… but she was still correct. So, maybe the movie is all about Mrs. McCormick… huh.

Question #2 – What is Siobhán’s Role in The Banshees of Inisherin About?

Siobhán is the loving mother. The loving daughter. The loving sister trapped in a society that is chewing up its men through tragic masculinity and without a single idea of forgiveness or the ability to deescalate literally anything. Notice how the movie just keeps irrationally escalating from one silly thing to the next. Right? And Siobhán is here trying to talk two human beings off on higher ledge after another. OH YEAH… I’m GOING TO CLIMB UP HERE IF YOU DON’T. OH YEAAAAAHHH? I’M CLIMBING HIGHER!!!! It’s stupid. And yet, these glorious settings, and these amazing vistas, just enforce this idea that these stupid problems are absolutely life threatening. When, in fact, they just aren’t. If one person had deescalated… just one. It’s just self important screw-up after another.

Question #3 – Why Did Dominic Die in The Banshees of Inisherin?

I see Dominic as a tragic bystander that is caught up in the war. He is in the middle of the civil war, he is impacting it (literally, four of Colm’s fingers are gone because of Dominic) and yet, he tragically falls in love and has his heart broken. After being told that he won’t be taken seriously, not even a little bit, by Siobhán, he decides he’s done trying. He’s regularly beaten by his father who covers it up within their town. His one true friend is leaving him. Everything is going wrong for Dominic. Why bother? I see Dominic as the wider society of Ireland that the war is splashing out to without anyone recognizing that it’s even happening.

Question #4 – Why did Colm cut off his fingers in The Banshees of Inisherin?

Yeah – that really is the most important question of the entire movie. Colm is a brilliant musician and wants to write music as his LEGACY for the love of all that is good and holy. Why would he destroy his ability to do that? Worse, he’s doing it because someone else wants to be friends with them. EH?

Well, Colm is feeling the ticking time-bomb of life. And you should be feeling that time-bomb too. 2022 or 1923, doesn’t matter, you are on a conveyor belt heading straight towards the end of your life. And Colm is outspoken about his depression with the coming end of his life. Both with Pádraic and the priest both… he talks quite a bit about the inevitability of his coming end. LEGACY! HE NEEDS TO LEAVE A LEGACY. Now, then.

Personally, I think that the movie is 100% about the Irish Civil War and the pervasive repercussions that came from the infighting after the Irish War of Independence. It’s about the deep rifts that were created during that Civil War, and the way very close friends, who had been fighting side by side a year earlier then found themselves trying to kill one another. And it seems like Colm, an artist, is struggling to blame his best friend for his inability to create some lasting meaning in the world. He wants to blame some non-himself entity,… blech, awful sentence. He wants to blame everyone but himself! Specifically, he wants to blame the people most dear to his life for his inability to create meaning. And we see that also as an allusion to our desire to create meaning and blame loved ones for their keeping us from supposed meaning.

I read in an interview that Gleeson was commenting about what the writer and director of The Banshees of Inisherin, McDonagh had told him about the reasoning… and he had said that “It’s quite common for writers to wake up in a nightmare where they feel that their hand is no longer capable of writing. That we fear the loss of the thing that allows us to express ourselves, whatever it may be. Your voice if you are a singer, or your memory if you’re an actor; we worry we’ll forget our lines. If that thing is threatened, it becomes about everything. So, I think my rationale was that Colm had made a commitment to risk everything in order to facilitate this space that he felt he needed to create properly.”

Question #5 – What is the Deeper Meaning in The Banshees of Inisherin?

But I can relate to this whole, rabid fear of that ticking time bomb that is drawing us closer to the inevitable. I’m not afraid of dying. Far from it. But I am extraordinary concerned about not having time. The time necessary to do…. it. You know? Do that THING. So much so, internally, I blame friends for interrupting my day, but when I look back at the single best part of my day? It was those interruptions that I enjoyed most about my day – not any “missed opportunity”… especially seeing as though I’d probably find an excuse not to do that “super important” thing anyway. So, I see two things going on here. The first meaning here is that the artist has this war within himself to create. And the second is this ravenous desire to find meaning. Is it the art that will be the most memorable and lasting legacy in our lives? Well, anyone that works in hospice will tell you that people at their deathbeds always say that they wished they had spent more time with friends, than with our work, or “our legacy.”

Edited by: CY