And what did the girl mean by “Miluju Tebe” in ONCE???

What a beautiful movie, “Once” is!

I know we Malaysians are catching it late but at least GSC’s international cinema circuit is showing it. Thanks for that!

“Once” is an Irish film that is essentially a love story told through music. A street vendor is attracted to a busker cum vacuum cleaner repairman’s musical efforts and a friendship strikes between them. Things are complicated by external factors i.e. the girl is married with a daughter & her estranged husband is away in the Czech Republic. The boy on the other hand yearns to be reconciled with his ex. In the middle of all this, they both share a passion for music and eventually develop feelings for each other. On the musical front, the both of them joined up with 3 other musicians to make a recording of the boy’s compositions in a bid for him to get some recording deals in London.

The movie stars real life musicians Glen Hansard (songwriter, vocalist & guitarist for Irish rock band The Frames), & Marketa Irglova (songwriter, musician, singer).  All but one were original songs written by them in the movie. It was refreshing to be able to explore  the on-screen character’s emotions and thoughts through songs in the movie. Feel the pain of unrequited love in Marketa’s life as it is depicted to be an uphill climb in the song “The Hill”. Feel the intensity of the guy’s frustrations as he goes through the motions of lost love with his ex – girlfriend. Join him in the emotional roller coaster as he grows red singing songs like “Say It To Me”, “Lies”, & last but not least “Falling Slowly”.  And yet …… it all came together so romantically, in the movie.

My take on the movie….I think its original, it deals with real life people with real life ups and downs, its totally unpretentious & authentic.

Some quick facts on the movie:

1. The Movie was done on a shoe string budget.

The movie was shot for only €130,000 ($160,000),  75% was funded by Bord Scannán na hÉireann (The Irish Film Board), plus some of director John Carney’s own money. How did they do it for so cheap?

  • The director sacrified his own salary to give to the two actors.
  • Expensive lighting was dispensed of, so natural lighting was used.
  • No sets were built, some scenes were even shot in friends homes for eg. the musical party scene in the film was shot in Glen Hansards very own flat.
  • The skeleton crew shot the movie in only 17 days. The speed of the movie probably explains why the Dublin street scenes were done without permits.

2. Did you realize the GUY and the GIRL are unnamed in the movie.

Interesting. Although their names are not revealed to us, we the audience, still managed to feel a closeness to the characters. We sensed their pain, their frustrations, their hopes. Maybe it is this very anonymity that drives through the point that it could be you or me or anyone in the audience experiencing all these emotions in the movie. Brilliant.

3. Other Glen Hansard / Marketa Irglova collaborations besides acting together in the movie.

  • Hansard collaborated with Irglova in composing and performing all but one of the songs in the movie. The soundtrack album was released on May 22, 2007 in the U.S. and on May 26 in Ireland.
  • Hansard’s first solo album, released Apr 21, 06, The Swell Season, on Overcoat Recordings was in collaboration with Irglová, and 2 other musicians.
  • They are a also a “collaboration” in real life. They got together while doing a promotional tour in the U.S. although Glen acknowledges that he knew all along he was falling in love with Marketa but had reservations because she was too young. Marketa was 17 when she made the movie and Glen 36. Well, their passion for music seems binding enough. They now live together in Hansard’s flat in Dublin.

3. Glen Hansard was not the first choice to play the lead role

Director John Carney wanted Cillian Murphy, an actor, to play the lead role. Cillian was to be one of the producers & investment partners too. However he pulled out when he heard that his co star was going to be a 17 year old. He did not think the film would work out.

As for Hansard, he was originally called to  provide songs and anecdotes of life as a busker given that he’s busking since the age of 13. After Cillian turned the role down, it went to Hansard. Well, there’s no denying, the film worked out fine, winning the World Cinema Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival in 2007. As for the 17 year old issue, that worked out fine too since Glen’s song collaboration with Marketa  won them the Best Original Song for the Academy Awards 2008. The song “Falling Slowly” even peaked at #2 for the Irish Song Charts.

4.  Great acceptance speeches at the Awards ceremony, if only there was time for 2 speeches ….

When Glen Hansard & Marketa went up on stage to give their thank you speeches … poor Marketa was cut off as soon as she started to speak by the orchestra music (which was a cue to indicate that their time was up). The organisers insisted that it was an accident but the host Jon Stewart was gracious enough to invite Marketa up again to give her thanks.

Check out the blooper and both their acceptance speeches here  in this link.

5. Some production secrets. 

The movie was filmed using two handycams and through a long lens. This meant that the actors did not have to mind the cameras too much. This way, they could be act more naturally and this was important given that most of the actors in the film were relatively inexperienced or not experienced at all. A bonus that came out of it was that this gave rise to some script improvisations which added to the authenticity of the movie. In fact, some of  the street scenes were truly authentic as passersby did not even realize that a film was being made.

6. And so what did she mean by “Miluju Tebe” …?

This was one of the most memorable moments in the movie. On a romantic motorbike jaunt, the ‘GIRL’ reveals, much to the ‘GUY’s’ consternation, that she is married, though her estranged husband is back in the Czech Republic. When the guy asks her if she still loves her husband, she replies in Czech, “Miluju tebe” but coyly declines to translate what it meant.  

The answer was unsubtitled. So the audience is left wondering, “Did she say YES or NO?” …..  but actually, she was telling him “I LOVE YOU”.…. if only he knew what she had just said.

I shan’t spoil it for you by telling you if the love between the two of them is requited or unrequited – so go watch the movie if you can…

7. Well, the movie title ONCE is more ominous for both Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova than you think.

Both Hansard and Irglova give the impression in interviews that they are unlikely to pursue further acting, so this could be a one off thing for them. Irglova has spoken about being nervous in front of a crew, saying “I don’t think I would be a good actress, overall”, and Hansard generally refers to the movie as a one-off, talking of “moving on… living a different life”.

 Well, I do hope they will change their minds coz I really like these two. They seem so natural, so genuine and a critic even described Marketa as being ‘luminous’.   Yes, I certainly hope to see more of them, so for me….

ONCE is definitely not enough.

 P.S. Check out Glen Hansard’s guitar in the movie (& in the pic above)…its seen better days & sports a huge hole in the middle. But I thought it showed great character and seemed to be a convenient resting place for Glen’s fingers 🙂 BTW, it truly is Glen’s guitar in real life.

P.P.S. For a sampler of some of the songs in the movie check out these links:





22 responses to “And what did the girl mean by “Miluju Tebe” in ONCE???

  1. How interesting! Haven’t heard of this movie. Did it get entered into any foreign language film festival?

  2. Nice sum up of the brilliant movie 🙂 I saw it 2 years ago before any premiere was made along with Marketa, John and Glen and other people at film festival 🙂 None of us knew it was going to be this big, but I am so glad that they made it 🙂

  3. “Once” was a refreshing change from the normal movies which we get.

    Sadly it got rejected by the major European Film Festivals but it won the best foreign film in 2008 Independant Spirit Award and the World Cinema Audience – Dramatic Award in the 2007 Sundance Film Festival.

  4. Pink Jeans: I guess Asme answered that for me already..aahahah! Catch it if you can.

    Lenka: Thanks for your comments. You are really fortunate to have an opportunity to mingle with these talented people. Yes, I too always root for the underdog and I too am glad they made it! Kudos!

    Asme: Thanks for the info…. well I’m just glad that it got recognised during the Sundance Film Festival. For a novice attempt, I think that’s a grand achievement already.

  5. Trying to solve the mystery of the stage names of the stars in “Once.”

    When the Guy goes to the Girl’s flat to say “good-bye,” he seems to use a proper name when asking her mother if she is home. What did he say??

  6. Brismile: Good pick up there… yes, he would have needed to refer to a first name when asking the mother if she was home…gee, I really can’t recall!!!! Maybe it warrants another view of the movie!

  7. Wah.. sounds like a good movie! Perhaps would pop at the cinema for this. Thanks for the write up! At least, I don’t get lost at the final part. 😀

  8. Gina: Most welcome! Yes, do catch the movie, dunno if its still showing at MidVly’s GSC Int’l cinema circuit tho… enjoy the movie! BTW, didn’t manage to catch Kite Runner at the movies..bought the book instead!

  9. He used “she”, fortunately.

    And what Girl said in Czech is not “I love you”, but “I love you and nobody else”. This actually answered Guy’s question.

    Nice review though, thanks.

  10. Roy: Thanks for your generous comments.

    You mentioned “he used ‘she’ fortunately” – I take it you are referring to when the BOY asks the GIRL’s mom whether she was at home? Thanks for picking that up. 🙂

    Wow – makes it even more romantic that he says “I love you & nobody else”. Perfect.

  11. He did not ask her mom if she was home, he asked if “herself” was in. This is an Irish guy, and that is a common Irish saying. He said “and is herself in?”

  12. Mindy: Thanks a lot Mindy for the info & explanation about the expression “and is herself in?”. A unique expression indeed….. Much appreciated!

  13. i sorry to say that it not really mean that
    it much more deep in that word
    it’s mean “i love only you” i hope it would be great that you guy know the real meaning

  14. its literal translation is “affectionate you”

    thus meaning she loves him

  15. really well written article.

  16. Just watched this movie tonight, so I’m now looking online for any extra info – such a great film, really touching

  17. just saw the movie-wonderful….did i miss this or did she never tell him the lyrics she put to his song? I kept waiting for her to sing it for him!

    • Thanks everyone …. ! Isn’t the movie such a breath of fresh air…..

      Cherie: Are you talking about the song where she did the lyrics whilst walking to the convenience store in her bedroom slippers?

  18. Just got the chance to watch it yesterday! Can’t believe I hadn’t before. ‘Once’ is brilliant. Thank you so much for your review, that’s lovely!

  19. Well…. in the version I saw he asked “What’s the Czech for ‘do you love him?'” and she answered “Miluješ ho?”.
    Then he questioned “So…. miluješ ho?” and she said “… Miluju tebe”, which means: “(I) love you.”

  20. thanks for this article! i saw this movie about a month ago. Im totally in love of it.

    cheers from argentina!


  21. “Miluju tě (or tebe)” in Czech is a very strong expression, compared to “I love you” in English. It is used only between spouses or people with very strong connections. “Mám tě rád(a)” is used between family members and others for “I love you”, but also means “I like you”. There is really no adequate corresponding translation in English for either. This is what my Czech girlfriend said to me.

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