Directed by John Carney, Once is an Irish musical film which stars Glen Hansard as an unnamed busker in the streets of Dublin when he meets a Girl (Markéta Irglová), another struggling musician who becomes persistent in questioning him about his music. After learning that she is a musician too, he teaches her one of his songs, “Falling Slowly”, and over the following week they write, rehearse and record songs together, getting to know each other along the way.
Hansard is an Academy Award-winning songwriter and vocalist/guitarist for Irish group The Frames and one half of folk-rock duo, The Swell Season. He is also known for his acting, having appeared in the BAFTA-winning film The Commitments, as well as starring in this beautiful musical, Once.
Although the film was shot for only €130,000, it has been very successful, winning many awards including the 2007 Independent Spirit Award for Best Foreign Film. Its low-budget shows, but this only highlights the raw emotions that pour from both Hansard and Irglová throughout.
The romance between the two is beautifully weaved in. One of the more standout scenes, I feel, is when Guy asks Girl if she still loves her husband. She answers in Czech, “Miluju tebe”, which unknowingly to him (and the audience) means, “It is you I love.” The phrase has such a powerful impact and it is this heart-wrenching battle that we see the two fight for and against that keeps your eyes fixated on the couple, as they then go into the studio to record together and their musical and potentially romantic connection begins to kindle.
Collaborators prior to making the film, Hansard and Irglová composed and performed all of the original songs in the film and they are each performed beautifully. This soundtrack is undoubtedly the best part about the film as the lyrics of the songs play a huge part in the story-telling, adding so much more intensity to an already compelling and real-to-life film. Hansard and Irglová’s song “Falling Slowly” received a 2007 Academy Award for Best Original Song and is undoubtedly a pivotal scene. The whole soundtrack also received a Grammy nomination and is one that I still listen to on repeat.
Hansard and Irglová’s developing relationship will keep you watching, but it is the soundtrack that will make you want to watch this over and over.