So, I watched the 2006 Dublin-base musical Once this week.
I’d heard of the movie before and was vaguely familiar with its story – Irish busker meets Czech immigrant and they make music together – and I was also aware that it had been successfully adapted into a Broadway play.
For some reason, though, it had never interested me that much, partly because of the seemingly familiar storyline and partly because, up to that point, folk music had never really interested me.
I happened upon the film on the BBC iPlayer during a Sunday afternoon movie hunt last week, however, and was absolutely spellbound by it. Sure, at a base level Once is a story about an Irish busker, who meets a Czech immigrant and they make music together, but the way in which this movie goes about telling this story with subtlety and deftness completely engrossed me.
Fundamentally it is a romantic tale, but it treats its romance in a refreshingly un-Hollywood way.
Sidestepping the overtly sexual and studying romance on a more human level. It’s two characters, over a collection of quiet and intimate scenes, slowly finding each other enthralling – mainly through a mutual passion for music.
As I have said, I’m not the greatest fan of folk music. I love Bob Dylan, and I quite enjoy a bit of Ryan Adams, but that’s as far as I really dare to tread. Irish folk music in particular is a genre of music that traditionally bores the living daylights out of me, but in Once Glen Hansard’s songs (all the actors own compositions) are a perfect fit for the film’s narrative - in equal parts gut wrenching and hopeful, sung with a fiery passion that explodes off the screen.
And his duets with co-star Marketa Irglova are the heartbeat of the whole film, particularly the Oscar winning Falling Slowly, which appears twice, first early on as an impromptu performance in a music shop, and then as the films closing number.
It’s a beautiful song, with a sense of pain and hope that resonates long after the film has finished. It’s easy to see why it caught the ear of the Oscar voters…
So why am I talking about this film, nearly ten years after its release? Well, I’ve just been thinking about it all week. It’s few and far between that I am moved and inspired by music or a film these days, and so I felt the need to celebrate this thing that did both.
If you’ve already seen it, then I’m sorry I have bored you with this gushing appraisal. If you haven’t seen it, then check it out whilst it’s still on the BBC iPlayer. You might just find yourself moved – or at least find Irish folk music a bit more palatable.