In “The Banshees of Inishrin,” set on an Irish island, almost every shot features the glistening North Atlantic Sea. This was purposeful for writer and director Martin McDonagh, whose film centers on two old friends who are turned against each other when someone suddenly decides to end their friendship.
“Part of it was the claustrophobia of being on an island – a breakup happens and you can’t really be physically away from the person you’re breaking up with, that was a big part of the drama of the story,” McDonagh Noted. “You have to pass by this person every day, you have to see them in the same park or the same church every day. That claustrophobia was a big part of it. But capturing the beauty of the west coast of Ireland was also a major factor in the storytelling.” was.
To create the fictional island of Inisherin, production designer Mark Tildesley found locations on Inishmore, part of the Aran Islands, and the island of Achill. Most of the sets were built, and everything had to be brought in by ferry from the film’s base in Galway. Ireland’s inclement weather was also a factor, but the sense of an uncontrollable atmosphere played into the tone of the film itself.
“‘Banshee’ is really about that wild turmoil,” Tildesley says. “It is sad that there is a need to be at war with each other. You would never go to the Aran Islands to make a film – no sane person would ever go there. But Martin had lived there as a young man, and it was here that he set some of his earliest plays. The allure was that it was very wild and that it would add something extraordinary to the ongoing turmoil between these two characters.
Shortly after filming “The Banshees of Inishrin” last summer and early fall, Tildesley moved to another coastal location, Margate, for Sam Mendes’ “Empire of Light.” The film, set in the early 1980s, focuses on a cinema called Empire and embraces the run-down, melancholy spirit of English seaside towns. Initially, the production looked to Brighton, but Margret embodied the warped sensibility of the times that Mendes wanted. Tildesley and his team re-imagined the Dreamland Cinema, a former working movie theater on Margate Beach, and used real locations mainly because cinematographer Roger Deakins wanted to capture the existing lighting.
“We put ourselves in a difficult position because we chose to use this cinema, which we named the Empire, and we gave it a facelift, because it’s really derelict and not in use,” Tildesley recalled. We do. “It was a beautiful building but it is crumbling, which was really great for us, because we wanted to have that feeling. And what it used to be. Shooting by the sea in winter was also a challenge.”
“Empire of Light” stars Olivia Colman as the cinema’s duty manager, Hilary, a woman struggling with mental health issues. The film, which was shot primarily chronologically, uses setting to help convey Hillary’s state of mind. It helped that Margate, like many English seaside towns, is in a state of disrepair despite its Victorian history.
“The sense of decay is palpable,” says Tildesley. “Hilary, our character, is dealing with her own mental illness and she has this quality of being fine one moment and lost the next. So in a way, this city and this movie and that decadence were really reflected in her character.
While “Empire of Light” ultimately opted not to shoot in Brighton, Michael Grandage’s “My Policeman” used the south coast for many of its scenes. The film, set between 1950 and the present day, recreated period Brighton and London extensively on location. Production designer Maria Jarkovich looked to several references to get the tone of the aesthetic right, drawing on Edward Bawden’s 1958 linocut of Brighton Pier.
“The atmosphere, the mood and the colors were so evocative of this piece,” says Djorkovic. “I was carrying this image in my head. It took me to the color palette for the whole movie.
In a modern-day narrative, the characters reflect on past regrets, heightened by their isolated, seaside home. The production made use of a real house in Peacehaven, near the iconic white chalk cliffs and turbulent English Channel.
“One of the pictures we had on our mood board was the house we just finished shooting,” Djorkovic noted. “All the houses are by the sea, and then there are rocks under the sea, and we trolled back and forth and back and forth. Peacehaven was great in terms of mood and atmosphere. There’s a really melancholy feel about the place, and we got used to it.
A similar sense of regret and sadness underlies Oliver Hermanus’ “Living,” which set one of its key emotional moments in Bournemouth. After the film’s protagonist, Mr. Williams (Bill Nighy), learns that he is dying, the character takes a train from London to the coast, where he attempts to reconcile his stable life with a desire for adventure. Although the Bournemouth scenes are relatively few, they reveal Williams’ mournful state of mind, as well as his unfortunate attempt to break free from the tedium of the city.
Directed by Sala Davies and Anna Rose Holmer and set in a remote fishing village, “God’s Creatures” used the Irish coastline for an even more intense atmosphere that plays into the darkness of the story line. The film, about a mother going to great lengths to protect her son, required an actual fish processing warehouse and oyster beds that the filmmakers found off the coast of County Donegal.
“Proximity to the water was very important to us,” says Holmer. “Not only in the visual storytelling that we wanted to put on screen, but also in the psychology of the characters. The sea is a constant. Weather, exposure to wind – that shapes a lot of people and their psychology. We see the sea as a character in our film. The old scenarios have an almost mythical quality. And there is a seriousness. You don’t need to impose a gothic tone on top of it – it’s there. These huge rocks, these huge waves, these huge views. Human life is very small in the scale of the landscape we were looking at.”
Although the coasts of England and Ireland can evoke a moody sensibility, they can also convey a more optimistic sentiment. In the final scene of “The Banshees of Inishrin”, the two principal characters stand on the beach and watch the water.
“It was set on that beach in the hope that it would have a cinematic quality,” McDonagh says. “But we got such wonderful light and weather that day. The sun broke through these dark storm clouds. You wonder, cinematically, ‘does the anticipation of the sun break through the clouds foreshadow what’s happening at the end? part? Or what are going to be gray clouds about the end of the movie and no hope?’ i think there is [hope]And I think the weather and the location helped with that.