FORGOTTEN GEM: Once

A prophetic title, “Once” is here to remind us that once in a while, you get a film out of nowhere that surprises you and reminds you the magic of the movies.

“Once” tells a story of a street performer, a busker, that communicates to the passing crowd his feelings and despair about the love he once lost. A Czech girl, an immigrant who is selling roses in the street hears him, and expresses her admiration for his voice and his songs. And one of the greatest stories starts to play out in front of the audiences eyes. Their growing bond spoken through song.

Two people, ignored usually by the crowds that pass them by, show tremendous talent not only in singing and playing their instruments but in learning the lessons of love through their songs and lyrics. We never learn either of their names. There is no need to. They are just two people, could just as easily be you and me. We never see them in a soppy love story. Those are for Hollywood, real life is never like that. That just is not how the world works. Instead we see them singing some amazing lyrics to one another and that is enough.

“Once” is one of the movies that forces you into contemplation after you’ve seen it. Upon watching, the audience will enjoy a very independent little movie, complete with not so steady camera work. As with many films of its ilk, the shaky screen can be uncomfortable, but persist, the magic of “Once” comes afterwards. Post-film, when you put all the scenes that you experienced together, you form a beautiful story, told in the most interesting way.

Using unknown actors (and I use the term actors lightly – the two leads are in fact musicians in real life, rather than actors) works very well given the anonymity of the roles they undertake. “Once” could not have worked if lead by the A-list stars. Unassumingly normal, the pair are refreshingly everyday, increasing the relateability factor.

Both Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová are subtle, real, and genuine in their understated performances. They easily convince as two friends strengthening their relationship.

The dialogue is simple yet effective, but the majestic is left for the songs which easily dominate the scenes in which they are present. “Once” boasts without doubt one of the most delicately beautiful and emotionally uplifting soundtracks of recent times.

Written and directed by former The Frames lead singer/bassist John Carney, it is clear that Carney has a passion for observation. “Once” steers clear of the intrusive. In a Big Brother obsessed society, Carney has captured the feeling of following a stranger you meet down the street without ever really imposing on their world. His approach feels like a documentary. He is here to remind us that we are watching these people, to listen to them and enjoy their relationship.

The observational documentary effect is only enhanced by the camera work. For the majority of the fi lm, the hand-held effect is simple yet used to good effect. However, Carney is too clever to leave the viewer in a state between reality and fiction. The last scene is perfectly executed. Using a crane, the camera ‘flies away from the scene providing an ending so complete, yet so full of craving to fi nd out what became of our fictional pair.

“Once” (Icon Home Entertainment) is available on DVD.

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