“I suppose I walk that line between comedy and cruelty because I think one illuminates the other.”
– Martin McDonagh
British filmmaker and screenwriter Martin McDonagh is one of the most celebrated contemporary directors in the world right now. With multiple brilliant films like Seven Psychopaths and In Bruges, McDonagh has established himself as a creative force to be reckoned with. His most recent work, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, earned several awards and nominations including BAFTA Awards and Golden Globes.
Six Shooter, first released in 2004, was McDonagh’s fiercely original directorial debut, an experiment through which he determined whether he wanted to remain a playwright or if that was the right time to venture into the world of cinema. McDonagh felt that the cinematic medium was more personal to him, allowing him to manifest his dark and humourous vision in a much more efficient way.
The short film tells the story of a man (played by Brendan Gleeson) whose wife has just passed away. Disillusioned with life and the existence of God, he gets on the train back home only to find himself surrounded by other people who have also experienced a loss recently: a morose couple who lost their baby to cot death and an unhinged young man (Rúaidhrí Conroy) whose mother was murdered.
McDonagh reflects on the nature of life and death, isolation and violence. More strikingly, he finds a way to laugh at the absurdity of life in a hilariously disgusting manner. From surreal jokes about a cow with trapped wind to a woman flinging herself off the side of the train, Six Shooter is the logical conclusion of a Beckettian world where tragedy cannot be separated from comedy.
“The whole point of it was to see if I liked it or if I wanted to do it, I guess. Just for myself and I realised that I did,” McDonagh said. “We shipped off to Southern Ireland, found a train. It’s a really stupid idea to set a movie on a train but we did and there’s no going back…It was just tricky, it was confining to work six days out of seven on a real train that we had to give back to Irish Rail every day at 4 for the evening commute.”
Watch Martin McDonagh’s Academy Award-winning short film, below.