In this section of our Colossus Movie Guide for The Banshees of Inisherin, we look at the key shots that help us understand the film.
- Colm Doherty – Brendan Gleeson
- Pádraic Súilleabháin – Colin Farrell
- Siobhán Súilleabháin – Kerry Condon
- Dominic Kearney – Barry Keoghan
- Peadar Kearney – Gary Lydon
- Gerry – Jon Kenny
- Jonjo Devine – Pat Shortt
- Mrs. O’Riordan – Bríd Ní Neachtain
- Written by – Martin McDonagh
- Directed by – Martin McDonagh
Key shots of The Banshees of Inisherin
A title is a powerful thing. It primes audience expectation. Call a movie Jaws, and we expect biting. Call a movie Fight Club and we expect fisticuffs. Atonement implies betrayal and seeking forgiveness. If you see something called 2001: a Space Odyssey, it better involve outer space. So with a title like The Banshees of Inisherin, there’s an expectation of a banshee. If not literally, at least metaphorically. The film delivers that in character of Mrs. McCormick.
The Irish Civil War
Colm and Pádraic represent the conflict between the Irish Free State and Irish Republican Army that’s historically known as the Irish Civil War. There are plenty of shots that reinforce the distance or tension between the two.
Banshees has a mirrored opening and closing. In the beginning, an aerial shot of Ireland gives way to Pádraic in Inisherin. At the end, the camera lingers on Colm, jumps back to a shot over Mrs. McCormick’s shoulder as she watches Pádraic walk away from Colm, then cuts to a final aerial shot.
This has a lot more meaning when put into the context of the Irish Civil War. The civil war started after the Irish War of Independence. The victorious Irish Republican Army fractured around clashing views on Ireland’s immediate future and how involved Britain should be. Those who wanted to accept being a British dominion became the Irish Free State. Those opposed retained the original IRA name. The Free Staters won.
It makes sense to open the film with the character representing the IRA and end with the character representing the Free State.
If only there was a stick with a hook
The stick with a hook Dominic finds is seemingly pointless. Except it winds up in the hands of Mrs. McCormick and is present at the end of the film. So it seems to have more importance than one might initially believe.
Mrs. McCormick is the film’s resident banshee-figure—a wraith-like woman who predicts death. A stick with a hook does have a similar look about it as a sickle, the tool associated with the Grim Reaper. So it could be iconography connecting her with the reaper figure.
But when we look at the introduction of the stick with the hook, Dominic says, “What would you use it for, I wonder? To hook things that were the length of a stick away?” This idea of hooking things that are close yet far feels very applicable to the film’s commentary on Ireland. Tension from the civil war continues to this very day. There’s a divide between people within the country. But Ireland isn’t a big place. Which is what we see with Colm and Pádraic on Inisherin. The two can’t help but cross paths. Given their proximity, it makes sense for them to just…cross the divide. At times, they’re so close to burying the hatchet. They just needed some metaphorical stick with a hook to help them. If only.
Pádraic and animals in the house
When things were normal in Pádraic’s life, the animals were outside the house. But after Colm destroys their friendship, Pádraic starts bringing his little donkey into the house, just to have some company. Then Siobhán leaves. The loneliness increases. So Pádraic lets even more animals into the house. It’s a breaking down of the order of things. A sign of stress and chaos. How nothing in Ireland was quite the same after the war.
The loss of culture
For Inisherin, Colm is a rare intellectual. His house is full of odds and ends from outside Ireland. The most obvious being the multiple Japanese oni masks. It’s probably safe to say that in Inisherin, Colm’s house is the closet thing to a museum or art gallery. When Pádraic burns the house, the isle loses something relatively special.
During the civil war, there was a period known as the guerrilla phase. It started after the IRA suffered a series of defeats. They scaled down their operation and started doing a lot more hit and runs and precision operations like ambushing individual leaders to try and destabilize the Free Staters. This involved a lot of damage to infrastructure, and public and private property.
What are your thoughts?
Are there more shots you think should be part of the Colossus Movie Guide for The Banshees of Inisherin? Leave your thoughts below and we’ll consider adding them.
Tell us more about the stick
It’s a very nice stick, Dom!
But, if you’re seriously asking, my first instinct is to relate it to the scythe carried by the grim reaper. Given how much Mrs. McCormick takes on the visuals of Death, it’s not too much of a reach. Then, of course, that very stick is used to fish Dominic’s body. By Mrs. McCormick. Which connects the stick to mortality all the more. And adds some bleak bleak irony. I can see it being one of those things where a scythe is so on the nose. So McDonagh wouldn’t want to do that. Instead, you go with a slant reference. Something that’s in the vein of but not exactly it. Out of context, you might never make a connection. But with additional context, you can see how a stick with a hook takes on the characteristics of the grim reaper’s scythe.
I’m not sure how much I’d stand behind that as a reading. But just saying that it’s the first thing that came to mind when you asked.