Filmmaking: <I>The Banshees of Inisherin</I>
Issue: September/October 2022

Filmmaking: The Banshees of Inisherin

The Banshees of Inisherin, from Searchlight Pictures, is set on an a remote island off the west coast of Ireland, where lifelong friends Pádraic (Colin Farrell) and Colm (Brendan Gleeson) find themselves at an impasse when Colm unexpectedly puts an end to their friendship. A stunned Pádraic, aided by his sister Siobhán (Kerry Condon) and troubled young islander Dominic (Barry Keoghan) commit to repair the relationship and refuse to take no for an answer. But Pádraic’s efforts only strengthen his former friend’s resolve, and cause Colm to delivers a desperate ultimatum.

The film was directed by Martin McDonagh, who once again partnered with a number of frequent collaborators, including director of photography Ben Davis, BSC, and editor Mikkel E.G. Nielsen, ACE. Carter Burwell composed the score for the feature, which was shot on location on Inishmore and Achill Island on the west coast of Ireland.

“As the visual directive, Martin [McDonagh] said he wanted to make one of the most beautiful, one of the saddest, and yet the funniest film you could watch,” recalls director of photography Ben Davis. “That was the task.”

The production shot with an Arri Alexa Mini LF and Signature prime lenses.
“My favorite scene is with Barry Keoghan and Kerry Condon, next to the lake at the end of the film, where his character professes his love for her. It was the last day of filming, and it was an incredibly emotional day. It was such a great scene, and watching Barry and Kerry play that scene — that was my favorite scene to shoot. And there’s nothing about it that’s about lighting or cinematography. Yes, it’s nicely shot, but it’s about the performance and the writing.”

According to composer Carter Burwell, director Martin McDonagh had one instruction for him: No Irish music!

Photo: Carter Burwell; credit James Gillham / courtesy of Searchlight Pictures

“There is, of course, some local music on-camera, but he strongly wanted to avoid any Irishness in the score,” Burwell recalls. “I ended up going in a more ‘fairy tale’ direction - celesta, harp, flute and percussion. I felt that approach would distance us a bit from the physical reality - and violence - of the film and make it more allegorical.
“Even in our most emotional scene, when Padraic’s sister leaves him behind on the island of Inisherin to start a new life on the mainland, the emotion is fairly restrained. If the score is successful, that restraint makes the scene all the more painful.”
Chris Burdon was the film’s music and dialogue re-recording mixer.

“Having worked previously with Martin McDonagh, I was fully prepared for Martin’s minimalist, pared-back approach to the sound effects in this film,” he explains. “The incredible dialogue is the backbone and center piece of the sound of the film, woven throughout with wonderful music and carefully crafted sound effects.”

Location sound mixer Simon Willis was able to capture stellar location recordings, Burdon adds, allowing him to mix the dialogues confidently, retaining all the emotion and timbre of the performances.
“The scene by the lakeside, where Dominic bares his soul to Siobhan is one of my favorites,” says Burdon. “Typically, the challenges of lapping water and wind would make this scene very difficult technically. However, the final mix has all the richness you could hope for in the actor’s dialogue, with subtle additional support from sound effects. This allows a brilliantly scripted and acted scene to be realized with all its incredible emotional punch intact.”