“A little movie called Once gave me enough inspiration to last the rest of the year," said Steven Spielberg.
Last week while browsing on StumbleUpon, I ‘stumbled upon’ an article entitled “25 spectacular films you probably haven’t seen” and this is where I discovered the film Once.
Once depicts the lives of two Dublin-based musicians on their journey together from complete strangers to a musical duo. The female lead (Marketa Irglova) works the streets as a flower woman whilst the male lead (Glen Hansard) is a busker. They meet when she introduces herself to him and discovers that he is able to fix her broken hoover, which she brings to him the following day. Their story flourishes from there, as they discover the quality of the sound they can create when their musically innovative minds come together and eventually hire a studio to record an album.
The simple yet inspiring plotline is only one of many great things I love about this film. The soundtrack to the film cleverly encapsulates the growing love story of the two characters. Each song depicts a different stage of both the duo’s relationship, and each of the musicians’ relationships with others.
Despite all this, my real love and appreciation for this film came after it had finished, when I was researching its background to write this article. Each aspect of the film’s production serves to add weight to its sense of modesty and exquisite simplicity. Director John Carney was a long-time friend of main actor Hansard and even played bass in his band. He asked Hansard to share busker anecdotes and compose songs for the film. Neither Hansard nor Irglova are trained actors, but both professional musicians.
Using a limited budget and even some of the directors own money, the film was shot in a mere seventeen days, using natural light and shooting at Hansard’s and his friend’s own homes (with friends filling in as the extras) to save money. The surreptitious nature of the film meant that passers-by were unaware filming was even going on, and the street scenes were filmed without permits. Carney gave his own salary to the two stars and promised a share of the profits “if the film was a success.” The film retains a realistic quality, with the two characters dating in real life and a majority of the songs written by Hansard himself.
Once remains a fairly unknown film, despite its soundtrack finding significant success. Title song Falling Slowly won the Academy Award for Best Original Song, the soundtrack album was nominated for two 2008 Grammy Awards, peaking at number two in the Irish album charts and winning the Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Music.
I would recommend this film to anyone, but particularly those with a love of music. While it has been critiqued for being too “slow,” for me it is the relaxed nature of this film that makes it what it is. Once proves that brilliant films don’t need a sky high budget and a star studded cast. It is a unique, feel good film without the Hollywood grandeur, and a definite must see!