I’m not really a fan of musical or movies with lots of music in it but there are a few really good ones I love such as Secret and Rent. But one of the benefits of having good friends online is the chance to encounter movie suggestions. Yes I’m talking to you Miss Addie of Betwixt and Between, I really love your movie suggestions and I hope you to enjoyed mine. Because of her I got to see this special and wonderful film called ‘Once’, a 2006 Irish film that though very small in size but very big in appeal.
The story is about an unnamed thirty-something Irish street musician named ahm.. oh wait he’s unnamed who also sidelines with his father’s vacuum cleaner repair shop. One day he met this beautiful young Czech immigrant named.. oh wait she’s unnamed too, who took good notice of his music. The two were introduce primarily because of the vacuüm cleaner but eventually it was their shared passion for music that got them closer. They started seeing each other by listening to their music. Through his broken guitar he captured her heart, through her piano he found a reason to forget his loneliness. And together they will not only write their songs but also the road map of each other’s path back to happiness.
‘Once’ is part a romance film, part musical and part documentary. Romantic because these two unnamed lost souls made a good onscreen chemistry as two people trying to move on and willing to give love another shot. It’s like a reminiscence of the Jesse-Celine love affair in Before Sunset not only because of their chemistry but also because of the bitter circumstances they’ve been through. It’s a better love story than Twilight, that I can vouch my hard drive with. But what makes this film intimate is its documentary-like feel as if we are peaking exclusively into the lives of two struggling artists as they create those good songs which are soulful, intimate, sometimes poignant, sometimes funny but altogether brilliant. You may not want their lovestory, but you can never resist the charms of their relationship bounded by the song they sings. The songs will tend to catch you off guard if you’re not expecting anyting special like I did. And they compeletely blew me away.
But great music need great artists to express them as much as great films needs great actors to portray the characters. And the two leads, Glen Hansard and Merkita Irglova, delivered a superb and natural performances in both aspects. It’s hard to tell if they are actors who did their music assignments (like Tom Cruise in Rock of Ages) or professional musicians who just venture into acting. And it’s a big surprise that both Glen and Merkita are indeed real-life musicians with no prior acting experiences. They both wrote the songs. They are good.
Here’s another bomb, the movie was shot with a $160,000 budget and with all sort of production nightmares. Their initial lead was Cillian Murphy (the Scarecrow in Batman Begins) but dropped out because he doesn’t feel like working with a very young and unknown Markita and his voice can’t reach the high notes. The director, John Carney, contributed personal money to the fund and practically worked for free. They have to convert their houses into sets, and shoot street scenes with no permits. The Irish Film Board too was a mess during those years putting the film on a production hell. But against all odds, the filmmakers did a superb job in delivering the great story giving us a heartfelt view of Dublin through the lives of the two talented artists. This how they make cheap but great movies.
It’s so amazing to know how this movie came into light against all odds. It simply speaks of the filmmakers’ desire to tell their story and let the world hear their music. Through music we get to hear the heart and soul of the characters, and perhaps a lesson or two from them about pursuing our dreams and going to the rightful place where our hearts is.