THE BANSHEES OF INISHERIN(2022)
What happens to a fragile being when the foundations of amity which had been the last unsullied frontier, nourishing one’s mundanity and survival within its praxis, are severed? What if your closest confidante, the one you poured your heart to along with pints of the local drink, chose to shunt you away, as if you were a liability? Fully grown adults have a lot to answer to themselves, to their conscience and to the discomfiting stirrings they harbour here in this instance.
The answers to workings of the human mind hardly ever suffice. One man’s painful epiphany, of being almost nothing in the course of his life so far, is offset by his buddy’s fledgling ambition. The sting in the tale is at once distinctly local to this picturesque Irish backwater. But it’s alarmingly universal because loss of a network of amity, a mutual bond can entail a fate worse than enforced solitude. You can choose your friends and they always tend to establish a family, an unsullied frontier against which all of life’s regrets can be defeated.
Martin McDonagh’s THE BANSHEES OF INISHERIN is concurrently about the love shared between siblings where nothing of a depressive shade can really eclipse the sanctity of blood bonds.
Of course, the heart wants so much more than being nothing in a one-horse town. The soul demands nourishment. Ambition or the lack of it is, under such circumstances, a casualty. Crossing over to the other side, for the sake of creative discipline, for the sake of an Identity, to escape parental abuse and the rank imagery of genders and location is at the heart of this melancholic, visceral, heartbreaking original scenario where the pithy cast rises to the occasion and then some.
They are victims in the sense that the place they call home has held them by their throats all their lives. The juxtaposition with the innocence of animals and the elegy for a friendship that can no longer suffice are fodders for the universality of this work. Loss is oftentimes a sudden brigand. It has a way to assault our collective senses and upend our notions. Nowhere has that been more organically realised than here.
At another more disturbing level, THE BANSHEES OF INISHERIN is about the impact of masculinity and our implicit violent tendencies that perhaps spring from our place within the most elusive corners of the map.
SONGS MY BROTHERS TAUGHT ME(2015)
Much of what lands with an internalised thud in THE BANSHEES OF INISHERIN is even more heartbreaking in the context of Chloe Zhao’s debut feature. It is an elegy on childhood and teenage ransacked by history.
A distinct shade which is personal to a fault and generational to the siblings here is because as Native Americans, they have been ousted from the mainstream and made to exist in a default stance, dictated by a culture that exiles them to poverty and the open expanse of their reservation. History is their foe and doesn’t allow them to have anything of merit or exception even in contemporary days.
We can sense the love and affection they innately have for each other, the fear of ever hoping for an escape for either of them that’s writ large on their young conscience. The fear of being like their preceding forebears. The fear of history already afoot and at play in their present, moulding a less than meagre financial and educational footprint for their future.
The performers are absorbers here, looking over a sociological plane that possesses the poison of polygamy, multiple children left to a deep, engulfing void, prison sentences and absentee parents who fail to drown out their disappointment with what life seemed to preconceive for them.
The naturalistic, almost documentary-style purity of filmmaking here gives us peeling walls, overgrown grasslands, broken souls and the vista of nature that’s never beautified as a contrast to the marginalised reckoning of these young people. Yet, like in NOMADLAND, compassion is a central force here, forcing us to reconcile with the humanity of this community, the steadfast way these individuals attempt to create a center even if it doesn’t hold itself for the long run and caves in at the slightest sensation of change.
There’s a beautiful moment in the final stretch where the young boy picks up sand in the Dakota badlands and scatters it around; the smoke-like effect there mimics the clouds above, as if interminably becoming one. That’s the naturalistic imprint that is Zhao’s own. In SONGS MY BROTHERS TAUGHT ME, she employs her eye for realism in every frame, letting the beauty and the inescapable line of inheritance for these folks hold our attention. It is a work of empathy.
Any brother who enchants his sibling with his imaginative prowess, a true gift of childhood, is beholden to that shared legacy to create a colossal body of work in the future, unaffected by mere nostalgia.
Any man who dares to fill up a space, be it a loft or a page, with words that can build bridges between fables and real-life, is worthy to be recounted as a lyricist, a musical mind with an ear for the inner child ensconced in our very souls.
Howard Ashman, a man who gave BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, THE LITTLE MERMAID and ALADDIN their lyrical immortality, receives a respectful, dignified tribute in this Disney+ original documentary. He is a prodigious child, an ambitious young man, a lover, lover of musical theatre and also a conscientious professional who turned each project into a gold standard, giving artists their due place under the sun. His contributions as an unceasing creative is celebrated here without flash, with depth, compassion and an arc of redemption, in the event where his partner till the end of his days receives his posthumous Oscar, declares his love for Ashman and asks the world to take stock of AIDS without stigma or hushed whispers.
I love how it inures us to the creative process behind some of our beloved Disney classics as also to the plays that Ashman helped to make permanent fixtures such as the oddity titled Little Shop of Horrors. Catching more than glimpses of someone like the irrepressibly iconic Angela Lansbury or composer du jour Alan Menken et al be full of joy while embodying Ashman’s original vision is a veritable treat. Archival interviews and photographs help further in capturing the haunting quantity of a life lost too soon but enduring to the present with its credo of good cheer.
THE VANISHING LION(2003)
A quirky short by the ever-prolific Agnes Varda upends a star-crossed track with a surreal image of her pet cat in place of a national monument, the title coming alive in a pithy whole of childlike wonder and creative absurdity.
Watch it closely to know how the absence of someone who we grow fond of has a psychological import in the way we look at the world around us.