Watch a Friendship Dissolve in ‘The Banshees of Inisherin’

The writer and director Martin McDonagh narrates a scene between Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson.

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By Mekado Murphy

In “Anatomy of a Scene,” we ask directors to reveal the secrets that go into making key scenes in their movies. See new episodes in the series on Fridays. You can also watch our collection of more than 150 videos on YouTube and subscribe to our YouTube channel.

In Martin McDonagh’s bittersweet period film (nominated for nine Academy Awards, including best picture), two longtime friends have a falling-out. Or, more accurately, one man, Colm (Brendan Gleeson), suddenly decides he no longer wants to be friends with Padraic (Colin Farrell). The rift leads to some very dark places.

This scene on the beach occurs after an earlier moment when Colm has threatened to cut off one of his own fingers if Padraic ever speaks to him again.

Narrating the scene, McDonagh said, “At the start of filming it, we thought it could be an angry scene. But as we shot it, we kind of realized that a much more introverted and broken quality was going to suit the scene in a much better fashion.”

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McDonagh said that he rehearsed with the actors before shooting, but the two of them did some improvisation during takes. The scene was shot with two cameras running simultaneously, “partly because we were at the behest of the tides,” he said. We had to capture the scene before everyone was washed away.”

But that way of shooting allowed him to capture a happy accident in one take. TIn rehearsing a moment toward the end, Padraic gives Colm an awkward half-hug and Colm breaks the embrace. It was shot that way in other takes. But in the one that makes it into the film, Padraic reaches for Colm’s arm and can’t even touch him.

“I remember thinking in that moment,” McDonagh said, “that they had captured something really beautiful and kind of strange.”

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