Why The Banshees Of Inisherin Has Such An Unconventional Soundtrack

Much of the work of Martin McDonagh, primarily on the stage, exists just on the outside of reality. He creates worlds that resemble ours but have a slightly absurd moral conundrum at the heart of them. In “The Banshees of Inisherin,” that fairytale setup lies in Brendan Gleeson’s Colm one day deciding he no longer wishes to be friends with Colin Farrell’s Pádraic, and if Pádraic talks to him, Colm will cut off a finger and give it to his ex-friend. While thinking about the score, Carter Burwell happened to read the classic Grimm fairytale “Cinderella” to his daughter, and the much darker tone of that original story — compared to the Disneyfied version more commonly known — paralleled quite nicely with McDonagh’s film. Burwell told Variety:

“It’s gruesome but it’s a fairy tale. I realized that it helped gave me an insight into the score … It was going to make the physical violence of the film which Branden inflicts on himself a little more metaphorical.”

Instead of fiddles and accordions that you would tend to find in Irish folk music, Burwell’s score turns to harps, flutes, and incredibly resonant bells for a haunting, mysterious vibe that both builds tension and harkens back to a time long past. The bells, in particular, add this uneasy whimsy to the picture, which could not better describe the work of Martin McDonagh. For my money, Carter Burwell is one of the best composers working in film today and has not been properly recognized for his decades of incredible work. This is just one of many examples of him approaching a piece of material in a way that seems fairly obvious on its face and completely turning it on its head.

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