“Once” Upon a Time – by Charlotte Canelli

Sometime in the last year or so, I saw the DVD of the Indie film “Once”.  I’m not certain if the film was one of the lucky things I stumbled across when working at the front desk of the library, or whether I heard about it from someone else first. One of the delightful advantages of being a librarian is that the world of books, music, movies and more that sit within my easy reach every day.

I adored the movie – it’s the story of a somewhat hapless Dublin busker and a young Czech girl who meet on the streets of Ireland. Although it is the fictional tale of a story of unrequited, yet star-crossed, love, it is also a story of hope. The movie is full of tenderness and lovely musical moments – surely ingredients for success in my book.

“Once” was filmed over 17 days using two handi-cams on a very cheap and convenient set – a set made up of the streets of Dublin.  It’s rumored that the movie only cost about $100,000 to make and yet, within the first two weeks, it was averaging oodles of money in ticket sales per screening.  It was an incredible Indie hit and to date it has made over $20 million dollars worldwide.

It also rocketed its two leading actors to stardom which everyone knows can be a double-edged sword.

John Carney, the wizard behind the film, first searched for two authentic musicians to play the lead roles of Guy and Girl. Glen Hansard, lead singer in the Irish band The Frames was first tapped to compose the songs for the film.  When another actor turned down the role of Guy, Carney turned to Hansard to play him.  Marketa Irglova, a Czech pianist and guitarist (only 18 years old and a family friend of Glen Hansard) took on the role of Girl.  The magic was set.

“Once” was released in March 2007 after being viewed at that year’s Sundance and Dublin Film Festivals).  Within two years of filming, Hansard and Irglova had won a 2007 Academy Award for Best Original Song – “Falling Slowly”.  The film, soundtrack, and award winning songs were nominated for and won awards across the world. Meanwhile, Hansard and Irglova formed the duo called The Swell Season and began a world tour.

Sometime before 2011, Irish playwright Enda Walsh turned the movie into the musical, setting the stage for many more accolades and awards.  The musical “Once” premiered at the American Repertory Theater – in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  It very quickly moved Off Broadway to New York City in December 2011 and January 2012 and then onto Broadway a few months later.  That year it won eight 2012 Tony awards (the most coveted Best Musical among them) and one Grammy for Best Musical Theater Album. Since 2012, the musical has opened in London and has toured major cities in the U.S.

A few weeks ago, Gerry and I had the luck to snag tickets to the musical “Once” at the Jacobs Theater in the Broadway theater district in Manhattan. It was obvious to me that the love story is just as wonderful on the stage as on the screen. I loved it.

The soundtracks to both the musical and the film are available through our library catalog: “Once: A New Musical” and “Once: Music from the Motion Picture”.  If you fall in love with the gifted voices in the movie, Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova formed The Swell Season and went on to produce two albums, The Swell Season and Strict Joy, both of which can be found in the Minuteman Library catalog.  (The musical score, for piano and guitar, is also in library collections across the network should you wish to learn some of the songs that you loved in the movie).

Hansard and Irglova fell in love with each other during the filming.  In a documentary about their relationship, Irglova admits to falling in love with Hansard as a younger girl when he visited their family in the Czech Republic. The 91 minute documentary film, “The Swell Season” (2011), was made while Hansard and Irglova were on tour from 2008 through 2010.  Their real life romance mimics the love story of the film and stage versions because the relationship does not work.  In the fictional story of “Once”, both the Guy and the Girl realize that they must try again to make their real lives work.  In the real life story of Hansard and Irglova, the stress and pressures of sudden fame fractured their romance and by the end of the documentary they have stayed friends but not lovers.

Hansard left school at the tender age of 13 to play his guitar and sing on the streets of Dublin.  Years later, after some of his success, he watched his father drink himself to death.  “Swell Season” documents much of Hansard’s pain and lack of confidence and Irglova’s growth from girl to woman. Additionally, what is apparent is that Irglova is young – she was very young when filming “Once” on the streets of Dublin (17) and Hansard is more than 15 years older.

Followers of Hansard’s music can listen to him on music CDs in the Minuteman Library Network on his solo albums or others under the name of his band, The Frames.   Both he and Irglova appear on compilation albums, and Hansard wrote two songs on “The Hunger Games: Songs From District 12 and Beyond” (he is the author of Come to the Water and is the singer and author of Come To the Water).  He also had a part in “The Commitments”, a movie that was released in 1991 when Hansard was 21 years old. Marketa Irglova released the solo album “Anar” in 2011.

If you are a fan of the movie or screen version of “Once” and you’re interested in more of Glen Hansard’s or Marketa Irglova’s talent, check out the Minuteman Library Catalog.  If you need assistance, visit or call the library.  A Reference librarian will be happy to help you find them in the catalog or place them on hold.

This entry was posted in From the Library - A Weekly Column. Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.