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Friday, 5 August 2011

Irish Film Marathon: Part 6

Once is a film directed by John Carney and released in 2007. It was shot over a period of 17 days with a budget of about 180 thousand. Yet it went on to become one of the most successful independent films of the year earning near on 10 million as well as winning multiple awards including an Oscar (for Best Original Song).
It is a real critical favourite and one that I had been recommended many times before, but had never got around to watching it until now. I'm glad I did, as this is clearly the smallest of all the films chosen for this marathon and shows a different side to Ireland's film industry.

Of course films made on such a limited budget and dead line will always be less polished as a final product than a film with a larger budget. The editing is rather poor, the cinematography slightly grainy and shaky. I think that this was partly due to the limitations imposed by the equipment, ad partly due to an intended effect the director was aiming for.
I can't say I'm the biggest fan of this kind of gritty, realistic "cinema vérité style", but it works well enough here. I've never been a fan of such film making style, but I'll admit that on occasion it can work very well.
But ultimately, it isn't the superficial and technical aspects that make this film so enjoyable, it is the characters and how they interact as well as the bitter sweet storyline and of course the music.

A quick word must be said about the music, as this is one of the primary aspects of the film, the story is told throught the music just as effectively as through the traditional film making mediums.
It isn't particularly the music I listen to often, but I did enjoy it rather a lot, of course the way it was employed in the film was very interesting, but even taken as itself I found it to be quite enjoyable. Glan Hansard is clearly a very talented musician, and impressed me even despite my usual musical inclinations, which is always a good sign.Marketa Iglova is also rather brilliant on the piano, she does some very beautiful work that really makes the music very beautiful.

As the film begins, we see a middle aged man busking in the streets of Dublin. He is given no name but is portrayed by Glen Hansard who previously appeared in this marathon in a small part in the first film I reviewed, The Commitments.
His life seems to have become rather bland since his girlfriend left him, but upon meeting a young immigrant from the Czech Republic (played by Marketa Iglova) who also goes unnamed, he seems to become inspired by her, she becomes his muse of sorts. and he becomes hers.
The film then covers the couple's relationship over a week or so, in which they both inspire each other to change their lives and record an album together.

I will admit that Romance is not a genre I usually gravitate towards, but I will make exceptions at times and I'm glad I did in this case as this is a film that is as realistic as it is charming, it just goes to show that one doesn't need to make a film full of contrived situations and melodramatic events in order to make a genuinely charming piece of cinema. It does not present a romanticised view of relationships however, instead it portrays a most realistic story, perhaps best described as a "slice of life" style film.
Both characters are very humanly represented, portrayed as flawed, talented but ultimately very hopeful individuals.
Each of them have their share of problems, the Guy has not seen his girlfriend for many years and yet cannot make up his mind to return to her. The Girl is in a foreign country, with her young child and without her husband. She is in search of something meaningful in her life, as is the Guy, they are both in need of a change of direction. Their encounter marks the beginning of this change, one could say they "fall in love" but that would be oversimplifying it, instead they both discover someone like them, in love with music, in need of a change and in need of affection. They essentially fall in love through their music.
This is what makes their album such a success.
But their relationship is not to be, for one thing there is a considerably age difference, as well as the fact that the guy is still in love with his previous girlfriend, the Girl also has a child to bring up and a husband. It's a relationship that is obviously meant to take place on a creative level more than anything else.
The film does not end up how you may expect from a Romantic film, but then again this is a very unconventional one, I feel I've already revealed enough in my review so I won't go into details about the ending, except to say that it's a beautiful ending, that may not be particularly pleasing, but is undeniably great.

I did mention previously that I wasn't particularly a fan of this films stylistic choices, but I will admit that I really admired the way this film was made on such a minuscule budget. It is an entirely human story, with everything taking place between the characters, so there is no real need for impressive visuals or fancy shots. The films purpose is to tell a story and it does so magnificiently, everything else is secondary.
The performances are of course very natural looking and appealing, nothing spectacular, and certainly a step down from my previous viewing experience, My Left Foot featuring the impossibly talented Daniel Day Lewis, but it is nonetheless very moving, a large amount of the film's success hinges on the performances, if they had been more contrived or cliched the film just would not have worked. But as it is, one can see genuine affection between the performers which is obviously transmitted to their characters.

It's a bitter sweet story (again), but these kinds of stories do tend to be the most affecting I find, as they generally show a great emotional depth, that is getting rarer in films these days.
The films refusal to take the easy way out and live up to the audiences expectations, formed from watching many terrible romantic films I'm sure, is admirable in my opinion and makes for a most refreshing film.
I can easily see why it won so many awards and such acclaim from so many different people, its certainly a very unique film and that is perhaps one of it's greatest strengths. It also makes it harder to review, for what can one compare this film to when it is so unique?

Their really isn't much more to say in regards to this film. I enjoyed it enormously, it was such a refreshing take on the near dead Romance genre, and had some excellent music, although I would not describe it as a musical as some people seem to be doing. Of course there were some flaws, and it isn't a film that will make it's way into my absolute favourites, but I would not hesitate to recommend it to all.

A rather short review this time, but I believe that the size of a review should depend entirely on the film one is reviewing... Anyway, hope you enjoyed it and don't hesitate to comment!
Next up is the final film in the marathon, and the only animation, The Secret Of Kells.
To read the previous entry click here!

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