“The Banshees of Inisherin”: Not a friend, not a good friend…

“The Banshees of Inisherin”
Not a friend, not a good friend…

By Volker Probst

A great film doesn’t need special effects, endless expanses or a budget in the millions. “The Banshees of Inisherin” proves it once again. Irishman Martin McDonagh’s tragic comedy is rightly one of the Oscar favourites.

Can only major productions of the “Top Gun” or “Avatar” brand survive in the cinema? The answer is quite clear: no. If you don’t believe that, you should watch “The Banshees of Inisherin”. Director Martin McDonagh’s film might not score as big as a blockbuster, but it does have plenty of breadth – the breadth of its stunning scenery, the breadth of the skill of leads Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson, and the breadth of its heartwarming storytelling.

And it goes like this: On the fictional Irish island called Inisherin, Pádraic Súilleabháin (Farrell) and Colm Doherty (Gleeson) have been best friends for almost their entire lives. The fact that Pádraic picks up his buddy Colm for a trip to the local pub together is a decades-old ritual between the two. But on April 1, 1923, everything suddenly changed. Not only does Colm break up with their regular date, he also reveals to Pádraic that he doesn’t want anything to do with him from now on. “I just don’t like you anymore,” is his justification, which is as simple as it is tough. And, as it turns out, that wasn’t just meant as an April Fool’s joke.

Pádraic, however, does not want to and cannot simply accept this after all the time together. Again and again he presses his renegade bosom friend, who reacts increasingly irritated to the pandering. The interplay of disappointed affection on the one hand and prevented turning away on the other keeps escalating until Colm even announces that he will cut off his fingers if Pádraic doesn’t finally leave him alone. But even this threat does not lead to a de-escalation of the situation – on the contrary…

The question of the meaning of life

Even the “three from the gas station” knew: “A friend, a good friend, that’s the best thing in the world.” The story of “The Banshees of Inisherin” comes across as a declaration of war on the motto once sung by Heinz Rühmann, Willy Fritsch and Oskar Karlweis. The two from the Zankstelle will not exactly reap sympathy from the audience. But a lot of laughter, at least from the viewers, who are blessed with black humor. After all, their crazy cockfight is just as funny as it is tragic and profound, since it raises no less a question than the meaning of life.


The two actors are in top form in the film.

(Photo: 20th Century Studios / Searchlight Pictures)

In the end, the aged Colm reveals to his counterpart that he no longer wants to waste the precious time he has left with empty drunken conversations. He would much rather dedicate it to the music and composition of his work “The Banshees of Inisherin”. “Banshees” are fairies who announce imminent death in Irish legends. In this farce, however, they seem to symbolize above all the death of friendship, reason and interpersonal relationships.

As is the film’s conscious metaphor that the Irish Civil War is raging on the nearby mainland. “In a way, you could just tell the story as a breakup,” McDonagh clarified. “But I think having the reflection of the Civil War – the way a simple argument between two men or two sides can escalate into something that gets worse and worse – was definitely something I wanted to bring out of the story,” added he added.

Hope for the Oscar

In addition to the director, who recently thrilled with “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”, Farrell and Gleeson in particular form the cinematic jewel into brilliant star cinema. Sure, both of them can do blockbusters like “Total Recall” or “The Batman” (Farrell), “Mission Impossible” or “Harry Potter” (Gleeson). However, they only appear to be in top form when there are no longer any special effects or budgets in the millions standing in their way.

This is the second time the two actors have met in front of the camera under McDonagh’s aegis. The first took place 15 years ago in “See Bruges… and die?” instead of. Even then, they were each nominated for a Golden Globe, which at least Farrell also won. For their performance in “The Banshees of Inisherin” both can now hope for the trophy again. And maybe even an Oscar this time. It wouldn’t be worth it.

“The Banshees of Inisherin” can now be seen in German cinemas.