In this section of our Colossus Movie Guide for The Banshees of Inisherin, we will discuss the meaning behind the movie’s title.
- Colm Doherty – Brendan Gleeson
- Pádraic Súilleabháin – Colin Farrell
- Siobhán Súilleabháin – Kerry Condon
- Dominic Kearney – Barry Keoghan
- Gerry – Jon Kenny
- Jonjo Devine – Pat Shortt
- Mrs. O’Riordan – Bríd Ní Neachtain
- Written by – Martin McDonagh
- Directed by – Martin McDonagh
Why is the movie called The Banshees of Inisherin?
First, the title itself. Inisherin is the name of the fictional isle where the movie takes place. Banshee is a little more complicated. Part of Irish and Scottish mourning involves keening. Keening is a kind of wailing song performed by women. So if you hear keening, you know someone has passed away. This eventually led to folklore about a keening female spirit that if encountered meant a death was coming.
With that in mind, the title is essentially referring to the idea of death in Inisherin. You could read it more metaphorically: a descriptor of women lamenting at someone’s funeral. Or as more literal and prophetic.
In the film, the title is the name Colm gives to his newest musical work. “The Banshees of Inisherin”. Colm then mentions he’s thought of playing it at Pádraic’s funeral. Given what we now know of keening as the origin of the banshee, the reference makes sense. But it probably has less to do with Pádraic and more to do with Colm himself.
Colm is depressed, or, as his priest refers to it, feeling despair. He has become acutely aware of not having much longer to live. Not because of any immediate sickness but because he’s older. Something will happen sooner rather than later. That awareness is essentially an existential banshee and what he’s channeled into his latest piece of music. A haunting, wailing, inescapable sense of mortality. If his demise is imminent, there should be a banshee, in inisherin, prophesying it.
There’s a deeper layer to all of this. Inisherin isn’t a real place. And the movie is Martin Mcdonagh’s way of discussing the Irish Civil War. So the whole of the country is scaled down to the conflict between Colm and Pádraic. What they go through is a euphemism for a conflict that took around 2,000 Irish lives and caused a national fracturing that’s lasted over a century (much like the U.S. Civil War).
The title should probably be looked at as a lament for Ireland itself. And a conveyance of McDonagh’s mourning for the death of national unity that occurred in the 1920s.
Lastly, there is Mrs. McCormick. She’s an older woman, who is kind of terrifying. She predicts two deaths will happen on Inisherin. And two deaths do: Jenny, Pádraic’s donkey, and Dominic. Even though Mrs. McCormick doesn’t wail or scream, her prediction of death, and overall presentation, makes her a banshee-like figure.
What are your thoughts?
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