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Once

Near the end of Willa Cather's book, My Antonia, the title character says to her old friend, "Ain't it wonderful, Jim, how much people can mean to each other?" That same sentiment is brilliantly celebrated in Once, the latest film from director John Carney.

Once has a fairly uncomplicated premise: an Irish street musician meets a young, Czech woman and we experience the development of their unique and moving relationship over the course of one week in Dublin. Many aspects of the movie are notably simple - the monosyllabic title, the unnamed main characters referred to in the credits only as Guy and Girl, the cinema verité style, and the rather brief running time, to name just a few. And yet, in all of its simplicity, Once manages to achieve more depth and emotional significance than considerably more ambitious movies have been able to muster.

Once is a musical unlike any other musical I have seen. The characters do not sing lines of dialog to each other. Instead, when Guy and Girl play and sing in Once, they do so simply as musicians creating music, much as you might see in a biopic of a famous crooner. But through the lyrics, melodies, harmonies, and physical expressions in their songs, Guy and Girl subtly reveal much about themselves and the story that the movie tells. The songs are another layer woven into the fabric of the film, with words that dance in and out of each character's past experiences and present emotions. This music is much more than a mere aesthetic element to enhance the movie. It is the very heart of the film and the affect is pitch perfect.

Once is also a romance unlike the traditional romantic stories that so often make it to the big screen. The connection that develops between Guy and Girl is achingly meaningful and yet it transcends our expectations and typical romantic notions. Some might find it bittersweet, but I found it to be both genuine and inspiringly hopeful. Sometimes connections develop between people that are as profound as they are brief. These connections are rich with unforgettable moments, overwhelming emotions, and sincere beauty, but they are not intended to be lasting. Instead, they are intended to move each person in the direction that they are supposed to go. The first time that Guy and Girl sing together, they harmonize beautifully and poignantly in the chorus, singing, "Take this sinking boat and point it home..."

Those simple words describe perfectly the romance of Once. Ain't it wonderful how much people can mean to each other?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I saw once at the beginning of summer at the Tivoli with my girlfriend and her old brother. I thought it was simple movie, yet wondrous performance.

On another note:

I've moved into my new house in Columbia MO, with my friends from school. Was wondering if you still had a few pictures/typed instructions on how you made your baked record holders.

I want to catch up sometime that i'm in the Loo, my email is jat7c5@mizzou.edu

Nice.

-Joe Tischler