Once – DVD Review

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Available at Amazon.com

Director
John Carney

Starring
Glen Hansard
Marketa Irglova

MPAA Rating: R for language
DVD Release Date: December 18, 2007
Run time: 86 minutes

The Movie

This is that “Irish musical” you’ve been hearing about all summer. The music in “Once” has gained such acclaim that it was even in the special “Movies Rock” countdown of the 50 best movie soundtracks of all time. The story is simple: a poor street musician meets a female musician and they make beautiful music together. The thing that makes this movie so special is its simplicity.

The film was written and directed by John Carney, an Irish musician who was formerly in the same band as the star of the film, Glen Hansard. The idea for the movie came several years ago when the director wanted to perfectly capture the emotion behind writing and performing music. He had his buddy Glen write all of the music for the film, assembled a small crew, and they got to work on the streets of Dublin. Watching the film, it feels homemade due to the amateur shaky cam that is used throughout. Also adding to the amateur feel, passers-by follow the camera around and are clearly seen in the backgrounds of certain scenes. This isn’t distracting, but it adds to the charm or the film.

The film is also perfectly cast. The two main roles of Guy and Girl (yes, that’s really what their names are in the film) had to be perfectly cast for this film to work. Glen Hansard, Guy, is a fairly famous Irish rocker. So famous in fact, that during the filming of scenes on the street, the crowd would get so excited to see him play that they would have to film at absurd times of the day to get a clean shot. When Glen was cast, he enlisted his Czech musician friend Marketa Irglova to play Girl. Since the two have been friends for so long in real life, the chemistry between them was natural. This translates so well onscreen.

The film isn’t like any other I’ve seen. Typical musicals will tell a story either through spoken word or recitative and then use a song to more clearly express the singer’s emotions or thoughts about a specific thing. “Once” uses songs instead of dialogue. A song will be playing in the foreground of the soundtrack and any dialogue that might be taking place between the characters is completely muted. More like a music video than anything else. Occasionally the song will end and the characters will interact with dialogue, but the dialogue doesn’t matter. I found myself not paying much attention to what was going on when there wasn’t a song playing. It’s a very interesting concept and it took me two viewings to get it straight. Let me tell you one thing though, these songs will haunt you. “Falling Slowly” and “When Your Mind’s Made Up” will stay in your head for weeks, whether you know the words or not.

Even with such beautiful piano and harmony driven music, the film is lacking. The story has several holes that are most likely intentional, but make the audience feel disenchanted. For example, a very important plot point is casually dropped by Girl at the beginning of the film, then about halfway through, Guy sounds dumbfounded when he states the exact same important plot point. Was this done on purpose? Similar situations are peppered throughout the film, but they didn’t take too much away from the overall experience.

“Once” is a film not to be missed. Be prepared however to devote the time for more than one viewing. Its film-making style is just different enough to throw off even the most seasoned of moviegoer. The music alone will capture your interest.

The DVD

the Video
As stated before, the film uses shaky cam to make it look like a documentary. It bothered me at some points, but for the most part it just added to the charm. The video is presented in 1.85:1 aspect ratio.

the Audio
The audio is what makes this film. The music sounds gorgeous and crystal clear.

the Extras

Making a Modern Day Musical: A 12:42 featurette about making the movie. From writing the script, casting the film, and writing the songs, this is a very interesting and well put together featurette that adds more heart to the movie.

More Guy, More Girl: This 9:39 minute long featurette shows more of the real-life relationship between the two stars of the film. Another very sweet and interesting featurette.

Webisode: “Broken Hearted hoover Fixer Sucker Guy” – A stick figure animated song from the film. Very cute.

Two commentaries, one for the film and then one for each song.

Also on the DVD is a free download of the song “Falling Slowly” from the film for use with your DVD-Rom drive.

The DVD Lounge’s Ratings for Once
CATEGORY
RATING
(OUT OF 10)
THE MOVIE

8
THE VIDEO

6
THE AUDIO

10
THE EXTRAS

8
REPLAY VALUE

7
OVERALL
8
(NOT AN AVERAGE)

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