Mark Tildesley: ‘The Banshees of Inisherin’ and ‘Empire of Light’ production designer

“We referenced things like the great John Ford Westerns and stuff like that, with a lot of shots in doorways, looking out to views and images beyond,” declares production designer Mark Tildesley about how the physical spaces in “The Banshees of Inisherin” and the remoteness of its island setting play a vital role in the film’s emotional narrative. For our recent webchat he adds, “there’s the views out the window from the inside pub to outside the pub, these connections to the real world, and then looking out across the distance of what was possible. You know, at that pub you look out, just across the Atlantic Ocean, you know, towards America.” Watch our exclusive video interview above.

SEE Exclusive Video Interview: Kerry Condon (‘The Banshees of Inisherin’)

“The Banshees of Inisherin” was written and directed by Oscar winner Martin McDonagh, starring Colin Farrell as bumbling farmer Pádraic, and Brendan Gleeson as jaded folk musician Colm, who abruptly ends his life-long friendship with his drinking buddy Pádraic 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.

Tildesley also served as production designer on “Empire of Light,” which was written and directed by Oscar winner Sam Mendes (“American Beauty”), partly inspired by his upbringing. The film stars Oscar winner Olivia Colman (“The Favourite”) as Hilary Small, who works at a movie theater in an English seaside town. She bonds with a young new employee (Micheal Ward), while managing her mental illness.

While both films are entirely different, they share some unique qualities. There’s a palpable melancholy permeating “The Banshees of Inisherin,” not only from the sadness, confusion and emptiness that often comes with the end of a relationship, but also the regret and longing that casts a shadow over this remote place, which we come to realize is deeply felt by some of the characters in the film. Tildesley agrees that those themes informed how he wanted to approach the film’s look and feel, particularly because so much of the film’s mystique is around the island itself.

“We wanted to make it a film about the landscape and about the place. We decided to go and build on location and shoot interior and exterior,” he explains. Interestingly, Tildesley suggests that those ideas are also applicable to his work on “Empire of Light,” which is also deeply rooted in a sense of place and time as it is set across the sea on the south coast of England. “Some of the shots are super wide, so it is, again, big wide landscapes of the sea, of the whole of the front,” he says of the grand old art deco movie theater that his team remodeled extensively, for a location that is so pivotal to the film’s narrative. “It’s not a small English contained world, but grander,” he says, adding that “this is Americana.”

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UPLOADED Dec 20, 2022 1:30 pm