Love Like The Movies: Once (2007)

How have movies shaped modern culture in our pursuit of love? Why have some films left such an impact that audiences go back to it across cultures and eras? Is there anything we can learn from movie love or is it the idealized dream of hopeless romantics? Before The Cyborgs will attempt to answer some of these questions in Love Like The Movies – a month-long exploration of love, romance, and film.

“I Don’t Know You But I Want You”

As La La Land continues its torrid run through award season, one director that doesn’t get nearly enough attention for his work melding music and movies is John Carney. Known most recently for his films Sing Street and Begin Again, Carney has long been making stellar films about musicians, often tying the craft of making music with other narrative themes like the pursuit of success, escapism, and love. Of his films though the one that perhaps most beautifully brings these elements together is Once.

Made on a shoestring budget of €112,000 and starring two musicians turned first-time actors in Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová, Once is an anomaly both in its execution and its delivery. Utilizing no extravagant shot techniques or grandiose musical numbers, Carney relies almost entirely on his two actors (playing characters simply known as Guy and Girl) and the passion behind the music to carry the narrative weight. It is, of course, helpful that both are musicians by trade and not actors in real life as the mutual connection the two characters share through their love of music feels truly authentic touching on that rare raw emotion that so many other films strive to hit but so often fall short.

Though the filmmaking technique and the general narrative may be simplistic, the emotions that Once explores certainly aren’t. For the love between our two protagonists is a gradual development that like so many things in life, stalls because neither can find the right words to say or conquer their own pasts in pursuit of this burgeoning feeling. But that emotion that they struggle to express in words or actions can be felt in their songs, When the two duet on the Academy Award-winning song “Falling Slowly” there is the sense that he is falling for her and she for him but neither is willing to make a move. It’s a beautiful look at intimacy all without any big speeches or even physical contact executed to pure minimalistic perfection.

At its highest tension point, Guy asks Girl if she loves him or her estranged husband back in the Czech Republic to which she responds with a Czech phrase that is left unsubtitled for the audience and untranslated for Guy. Carney knows that there is no need to provide information here as everyone knows how she feels but it is nonetheless telling of the bittersweet nature of love even the ones that may occur just once in a lifetime.

Watch Once on Netflix Canada or Purchase it on Amazon

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