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: