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The Banshees of Inisherin Works. Here's Why.

“Do you know who we remember for how nice they was in the 17th century?”
“Who?”
“Absolutely no one. Yet we all remember the music of the time. Everyone, to a man, knows Mozart’s name.”
“Well, I don’t, so there goes that theory.”


Pour a glass of something fancy, because this one’s going to be deep.

While discussing Il Noma Della Rosa (The Name of the Rose), Umberto Eco said that a novel should be a “vehicle for interpretation,” which is also true of paintings, movies, and whatever else you think counts as art.

Eco inisted that it’s rubbish when an artist tells you how to interpret their work. And he’s not wrong. Similar to saying, “Don’t explain the joke,” a work of art that really wants you to get its message is always a bore. (We've all sat through TV episodes that felt like having dinner with That One Relative who always talks politics.)

On the other end of the creative spectrum are insufferable artists who aren't happy until their work is an incomprehensible mess. If no one can understand it, it must be real art, right?

Thankfully, the Banshees of Inisherin is the rare film that lands exactly where it’s supposed to.

Mind you, I don’t think every film needs to scrutinized like a painting in the Louvre. Some great movies are all about watching fun characters punch Nazis. No need to leave room for interpretation, just let me inhale popcorn while handsome heroes smack Hitler around and I'm happy.

But when a movie wants to be a work of art, it needs that breathing room.

So, what’s going on in Banshees? Is it a metaphor for the Irish Civil War? A discussion of a mid-life crisis? A thesis on the value of friendship? A symbolic exploration of our interactions with figures of authority?

And what exactly happened in this movie? Did [redacted] suffer an accident? Did [redacted] ever find the source of his despair? Is it better for [redacted] take risks on the mainland than to live on the boring-but-safe island?

The ground is littered with unanswered questions.

I realize this can sound like a recipe for a pretentiously bad movie, but, trust me, it’s a fascinating film that’s fulfilling in its own way. The film's empty spaces leave us with room to fill in the blanks, and, like people taking a hushed walk after a hard day, we shuffle through those empty spaces and find ourselves compelled to ponder the human condition, along with our responsibilities to ourselves and to one another. I have a strong "eye roll" reaction to artistic films, but this one hits the spot.

There’s plenty more reasons to like The Banshees of Inisherin. The acting is absolutely perfect. The use of natural light is stunning. The director chose to film in ultra wide screen, a format normally used for action because you can fit more excitement on screen, making this quiet story into an epic tale. If you think about it, it's hard to film a bunch of people talking and make it look interesting (there's a reason parlor dramas aren't known for cinematography) but Martin McDonagh painstakingly made each shot into a masterpiece. You could fall in love with this movie even if the sound was off, but then you'd miss out on the brilliant dialog.

Final Analysis: Ten out of ten fingers.

“Have I gone fecking mental? No I haven’t gone fecking mental. Not only have I not gone fecking mental, but I have got ten fingers to prove I’m not fecking mental. How many fingers have you got to prove you’re not fecking mental?”
“Nine fingers.”
“Nine fingers is the epitome of mental.”


___

Adam D. Jones is a writer, musician, and medievalist. He's also an introvert who is jealous of hermits and secretly wonders if the threat of self-mutilation would keep people away...

6 comments:

  1. The most astonishing thing about this movie to me is the way McDonagh balances the tone in the edge of a knife and never leans too far one way or the other. Too funny or too somber and this would've crashed and burned. But it's just right.

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  2. Dang. I wish I had said it that well! Yes, he really did a great job maintaining a unique and beautiful tone for two hours.

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  3. In case you see my comment on your review of Babylon, just want to mention this was my 2nd favorite movie of the year, so we agree on one anyway :)

    There are several small scenes in Banshees that are just perfect. Wonderfully acted and filmed.

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  4. DreadPirate, thank you so much for being part of the Doux community. Seriously. With a smilie. :)

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    Replies
    1. Thank you!! I’m more of a lurker than a commenter as I’ll never say anything nearly as articulately as the folks here do, but I do love the fact that the interests of the people here so often intersect with my own. Buffy, Lost, Star Trek is what got me here, but from that I’ve learned so much and branched out to so many other shows and movies I may not have watched otherwise. So thank you to everyone here. Whether I agree (Banshees) or disagree (Babylon), I know it will be a thoughtful, detailed, and at times amusing discourse.

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    2. DreadPirate, you seem pretty articulate to me. And you're very welcome.

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