The Non-obvious choice… for Once…

February 24, 2008 at 11:45 pm | Posted in DVD, movies, music links | Leave a comment

John Carney (On set to Glen Hansard): What if at the end of the scene you say, “What’s the Czech for Do you love him?” She responds and you repeat the Czech back to her. She replies “No” in Czech. But you don’t know what that means…

DVD Review – February 24th

Congratulations to Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova on winning Best Original Song for Falling Slowly!! For a minute there, I thought it was going to go to the over-dramatic Enchanted tarts. šŸ˜‰ Thank goodness. I like Broadway and I love Kristin Chenoweth, but that was just a saaad display. Good thing I didn’t see the movie.

Yet another reason to finish my Once review, so here it is.

This is a brilliant and beautiful film about two musicians that come together to enrich the lives of each other and by extension, ours as well. I first saw this movie on a date in NYC back in 2007. I’m glad that I had the chance to see it in a romantic context because to me, this film IS the modern day love story.


Basic plot rounds out simply but gracefully: Dublin Boy meets Czech girl, Girl inspires boy and vice versa, they record great music, they part ways as better people than when they met. What I really love about Once is that it does not rely solely on physical attraction of the main characters, but more of a creative and emotional arousal between them. The idea that two people can meet and change one another’s lives so profoundly in such a soulful and realistic way is a beautiful concept.

Wonderfully written and directed by John Carney, fellow musician who formerly played bass for The Frames (headed by Glen Hansard). He wanted to write a modern-day musical that could be “written on the back of a postage stamp” using mood and tone to express how people can relate deeply through music. Carney began with an idea, a 60 page script and decided to ask long-time friend Hansard if he would include a couple of his songs and maybe compose some originals as well. Hansard agreed and both he and Irglova provided mostly completed songs, with the exception of a few which were composed organically on set. (All the Way Down, for example) The combination of these two composers, no doubt led by their experience in making the film, subsequently inspired the launch of the pair’s side project, The Swell Season. (currently touring!)

swell season

When casting the role of the unnamed Guy, Carney realized what he needed was a singer who can half-act, instead of a good actor who can half-sing *cough* Johnny Depp *cough*. Originally up for the role of Guy was rock-n-roller turned actor Cillian Murphy (of Batman Begins’ Scarecrow fame) Hansard had also suggested Marketa Irglova for the role of the Girl. On rehearsal tape, John Carney saw in these two friends the exact dynamic he was looking for in the lead characters.


Though they would eventually become a couple during the promotional tour, Hansard (37) and Irglova (19) have such natural chemistry together, we almost forget that they are new to acting. Hansard had once played the Irish guitarist in The Commitments, but this was Irglova’s first and most likely last effort on screen. “I was really comfortable with the music part because that’s something I know I’m used to, but the acting bit I’d never done before. But I guess the fact that it was a musical, that made it easier for me.” Irglova states in a Behind the Scenes DVD interview. Hansard adds, “If there is a natural feel to the film during the music scenes, it’s only because we weren’t acting in those bits, we were just playing… Most actors’ job is to pretend they know each other, but Mar and I had to act like we didn’t know each other.” As a director, Carney took full advantage of this chemistry and “tapped into” their friendship and affection for one another in key moments in the film, much to the film’s enhancement.


According to the Once Wiki, Once was shot on location in Ireland over 17 days with a handful of crew with hand-held digital cameras. The Dublin street scenes were done without permits and with a long lens so that many passersby didn’t even realize that a film was being made. This also helped the non-professional actors relax and forget about the camera, and therefore some of the dialogue ended up being comfortably improvised. The musical party scene was filmed in Hansard’s own flat, with his personal friends playing the partygoers/ musiciansā€” his own mother, Catherine Hansard, is briefly featured singing solo. The filmmakers saved money by using natural light and shooting at friends’ houses. This grassroots guerrilla film-making style even caused an interesting reaction in audience members when the film was screened. Irglova comments, “They thought it was a documentary, which only compliments John as a filmmaker and the mood he was going for with the film. It’s a very personal and intimate story.”

The title Once comes from what John Carney calls a “male condition,” not necessarily just in Ireland (and not just in males in my opinion :)). It refers to “the sort of guys we all know who are very talented and creative, that have a lot to say about the world and are witty and vain and funny, but kind of sit behind the pint of Guinness. They just don’t have the get-up-and-go. You hear that line a lot from these people… “Once I get up enough money…” “Once I move out of my parent’s house…” “Once I get this little business set-up…” “Once I get my great script written, I’ll be brilliant.” They’re not actually doing it, they keep procrastinating and putting it off. This ties in with the lead character in the beginning of the film who has talent to burn who doesn’t have motivation or self confidence and feels he didn’t do something with his talent when he was young enough, and now he is hemmin and hawing and doesn’t quite know where he’s going. “Once I do this, Once I do that… then the world will make sense.”

Once Trailer

Once Soundtrack: Myspace, Amazon

Interview with Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova

Once WIKIAcclaimed filmmaker Steven Spielberg was quoted as saying “A little movie called Once gave me enough inspiration to last the rest of the year.”

RATING: *****/5
Recommendation: Rent it with a loved one or very close friends.



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