Carne Levare

Know Other People

Thoughts on the Movie “Once”

Posted by Remy on February 25, 2010

from 2008

The movie “Once”, an unassuming and underplayed musical that does without Hollywood glitz and even Hollywood actors, fits into a new category of romance that avoids the worn, warmed-over dregs of sentimental adultery. Like many of the short segments of “Paris je ‘taime”, “Once” sees the landscape and decides to mine the untapped narrative potential. We’ve been trained to root for two people to “hook-up” for no other reason than the camera lingers on the two of them the longest, we’ve been taught that adultery can be beautiful and is beautiful if the husband is a jerk or the wife is a shrew, but John Carney, the writer and director, avoids cliche and ultimately foils this bland desire and challenges the viewer to see the wisdom in avoiding throw-away sex.


We all know that it is natural to break into song when working and that music reveals emotions better than words, but for some reason when we watch musicals we find that they are too fantastic for us. Yet I think the thing that draws people to musicals is that there is something hyper-realistic about breaking into song. Part of the problem is that breaking seamlessly into song is somewhat comedic and therefore even the dramatic parts are undercut by the comedy of it. “Once” solves this by weaving the songs into the story rather than dropping them into its lap.

Singing is glorified speech and by consequence, a more intimate form of communicating. Typically we think that the higher on the formal ladder we go the more distance, the more separation between the parties there is -and in some sense that’s true. But there is also greater weight added to the situation. Nobody wants to be married in the common tongue (You love her? Yup. You love him? Yup. Then a’guess yer married, go on n’kiss her).

The striking thing about “Once” is that while it is certainly a love story it is not a love story between the two main characters. They both have fractured relationships, they gather and sing, and at the end are renewed with their absent lover. They get the strength and confidence to do this by worship, if I may categorize it so, and worship that takes much sacrifice and practicing. Once the music is perfected they find their loves and romance them with song.

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