Once: Brilliance on the Small Scale

Once posterEvery once in a while, a movie haunts you to the extent that you find yourself thinking about it long after the credits have rolled and the DVD has been returned to Blockbuster. For me, that movie was Once, which I saw a couple of weeks ago and haven’t gotten out of my head since.

Why does this movie stay with me so? A large part of its staying power is its music. For those who either haven’t seen the movie or didn’t watch the Academy Awards this year, Once is about two musicians in Dublin who spur each other to stretch their talents over a single week. Its stars are Glen Hansard of The Frames and Marketa Irglova, two musicians who now tour together as The Swell Season. The music is unapologetically romantic and gorgeous, and all the songs in the movie were composed by Hansard and Irglova or Hansard alone. Like the movie itself, the lyrics paint a kind of tone poem, create a delicate mood, such as these from the Oscar winning song “Falling Slowly”:

I don’t know you
But I want you
All the more for that
Words fall through me
And always fool me
And I can’t react
And games that never amount
To more than they’re meant
Will play themselves out

But as fabulous as the music is – and the music comprises more than half the film, mind you – Once‘s story, written by its director John Carney, is stunning in its simplicity. If you expect some big and horrific conflict to interrupt these characters’ lives, think again. No death, no violence, no sex. The only conflict is the very mild tension coming from the characters’ own heads and their unrequited attraction. It’s the visual movie equivalent of a tone poem, and it’s exquisite in its detail and lack of gimmickry.

If you haven’t seen the movie yet, go rent it right away. You’ll thank me.

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2 Responses to “Once: Brilliance on the Small Scale”

  1. Anne Lindsay Says:

    I, too, love this movie. We saw it quite a few months ago and most of the people in the audience were 40 and above. Why, I’m not sure. It was lovely and I’m so glad they got the academy award for best music. Did you see the academy awards? It was David and Goliath. The Disney mega productions and them. Yea. They won. I recommend this movie for all those over and under 40.

  2. toddiedowns Says:

    Thanks for your reply. I would’ve loved to see it in the theater for the community feel that you can’t get with a DVD. However, with the exception of a couple of F-bombs on the bus scene, I actually would’ve been content to let my children see the movie, and just turn the volume down on the one scene. I’d recommend the movie to anyone who loves music, period.

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