Carter Burwell interview: ‘The Banshees of Inisherin’ composer
“I’m trying to add something that’s not there. To make it a deeper, dramatic, cinematic and emotional experience. I’m also trying to make each film its own world,” declares twice Oscar-nominated composer Carter Burwell (‘Carol,’ ‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri’) about his score for the dark comedy “The Banshees of Inisherin.”
For our recent webchat he adds, “My dream would be that each film has totally different instrumentation and a different sonic quality. If you do a hundred movies like I’ve probably done in my life, you can’t really pull that off. But that’s my dream. I always want, as much as possible, for each one to be very distinctive, for you to get that right away. So you, as a viewer, feel like ‘oh, this is the world I’m in now’ and it doesn’t relate to any other film you’ve seen, and you’re in a universe that’s sort of hermetically sealed from everything else and this is the world I’m going to be in for the next two hours.” Watch our exclusive video interview above.
In “The Banshees of Inisherin,” jaded folk musician Colm (Brendan Gleeson) abruptly ends his life-long friendship with his drinking buddy Pádraic (Colin Farrell) on the fictional island of Inisherin, a small remote community off the coast of Ireland during the Irish Civil War. Pádraic’s caring and forthright sister Siobhán (Kerry Condon) and troubled local simpleton Dominic (Barry Keoghan) attempt to repair the damaged relationship by helping to defuse the escalating stand-off between the men, but their collective efforts prove fruitless as Colm’s resolve intensifies, leading to inevitably shocking consequences. The Searchlight Pictures black tragicomedy was written and directed by Oscar winner Martin McDonagh, reuniting Farrell and Gleeson, who previously worked together on McDonagh’s directorial debut “In Bruges” (2008). It also sees Condon back working with McDonagh again after previous collaborations on stage in “The Lieutenant of Inishmore” and “The Cripple of Inishmaan,” and McDonagh’s last Oscar-winning film “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.”
Burwell, perhaps most renowned for his ambitious work in various Coen Brothers films over the years, was conscious of bringing something different to McDonagh’s latest film. He steered clear of Irish folk music or overtly emotional melodies in favor of a sound that subverts expectations in its restraint and nuance, which cleverly accentuates the melancholy that permeates the story. “The music often refuses to get emotional and for some reason, that makes it even more emotional. That has something to do with the whole film. It is very contained. No one ever shouts in the film. It’s very quiet and yet so intense and so sad and so funny,” he explains. “We noticed that the less you did, and it’s true in the writing too. The less you did, the more effective it often was.”