I saw the most amazing film last night called “Once.” It is the collaborative effort of director John Carney, and musicians Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova. I don’t really know how to describe this film yet, I’m still letting it hit me. I just know that it was an emotional experience – saying I went to watch a film just doesn’t really seem to portray what it was really like. It’s a film but it’s a musical, though not like any musical I’ve ever seen before. It’s a story about love and life which is sort of told through music, but the music is the story – the medium is the message so to speak. It was all of this but never commercial and contrived. I guess the best way to describe it is that this was fine art, truly brilliant.
You can learn all about the film on wikipedia you can find lots of video of the artists singing together on youtube, but what you really ought to do is find an art house and watch the film. It’s a wonderful expression, a collage of postmodern art perfectly combining film, music and phenomenal writing.
I knew I was going to like the film just from the trailer I saw a month or so ago, but I just didn’t expect to have the visceral reaction that I did. I think I’ve been once again reminded of the power of creativity and art and the power of music toward making a real connection with another human being. In the struggle to find our way through the pain and sorrow of the human experience, our lives can sometimes take on such a solitary hue. But hardly any of us really wants it to be that way. So we fight through our own disfuction to try to make connections to other people – whether it’s love or pain, we just want to feel something and we fumble around trying to make it happen. Sometimes music can be the catalyst to a real connection with other human beings. In my life, there are just sometimes it’s the only connection I can get my hands around.
As someone who made their living writing songs, touring and making records for the better part of a decade, I think watching this film was a little more powerful for me than most. Part of the reason, at least the part I can articulate right now is that I feel like this movie portrays the power of a song. If you’ve ever been compelled to write a song, the words, the melody, the emotions & bittersweet moment that it all first spills out into the world…creation…this movie helps one feel all of it.
I’ve always felt that the most perfect performances of any song were the first time that the song comes into being. You write the melody and the chords, you structure it, tweak it a little, change it here and there – all of this is very disjointed – starting and stopping, writing & rehearsing. Then it starts to come together. Usually by yourself in a bedroom or studio somewhere you experience the song for the first time. It’s usually incredibly emotional for me – I usually end up in tears, continuing on through raw emotion and a crackling voice…beautiful, perfect. I can sing a song a thousand times again after that and it will never mean to me what it meant in that moment.
I will watch this movie again, no doubt. But I will never feel what I felt the first time I watched it and it caught me by surprise. I’m so glad that people such as Hansard, Carney & Irglova are out forcing film and music into honest expressions of life and love. Well done.