Fyodor Dostoevsky once wrote, if my memory serves me, in his story White Nights, that all a man really needs in his life are moments. Dostoevsky may have just said “a moment”, but the point he makes is this: the most important things–the only important things–in life, are those brief, fleeting times of perfect joy. Those moments can carry a man.
John Carney’s film, Once, is a movie about such a moment. It takes place over the course of about a week, with your basic “Irishmen in Dublin meets adorable Czech immigrant and they both learn to make wonderful music together”. There is a lot of time spent in the film’s hour and forty minutes on the music. Glen Hansard, whose dayjob is singing lead for The Frames, a band I have never heard before, plays the male protagonist. Markéta Irglová, who is only 19 and thus, probably doesn’t have a dayjob, plays his female counterpart.
Hansard is a street musician and vacuum cleaner repairmen. Irglova is a Czech immigrant, and mother, with a broken vacuum cleaner. And she happens to be a big fan of Hansard’s, and a fairly accomplished pianist. On a whim, he fixes her vacuum and they play some music together, and, it would seem, their stylings jive nicely. There’s no real conflict here–the characters all get along and no one dies and the music is wonderful and all that. Drama isn’t really the point here. Neither is the film a comedy, though it has enough humor, I suppose. It is largely a vehicle for the songs, which are good in that Cat Power/Iron and Wine/Damiens (Jurado and Rice), empassioned folksy music kind of way. Ya know, it’s earnest.
Likewise, I suppose, is the rest of the movie. These two people may have nothing else in common outside of music. Neither lives in a perfect world, but the movie isn’t about Life as Fucking Pain or the misery of bad relationships or death or poverty, or anything like that. It merely reminds us that, sometimes, everything will come together for one, ephemeral moment of unadulterated happiness.
A marvelous, joy of a film. Recommended for anyone in need of a reminder of the value of things that don’t last.