The musical collaboration of Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová in 2005’s Once plays just like a summer romance – passionate, unforgettable, and short-lived.
Once tells the story of a street musician (Glen Hansard) and a Czech immigrant (Markéta Irglová) during an eventful week as they write, rehearse and record songs that reveal their unique love story. The duo’s performance in the film was the couple’s first time working together, making Once an extremely unique and one-of-a-kind cinematic experience.
Originally meant for Cillian Murphy of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy fame, the role of “Guy” was given to bassist of band The Fames. Met with critical appraisal, Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune called it, “the most charming thing I’ve seen all year,” and even Steven Spielberg was quoted as saying “A little movie called Once gave me enough inspiration to last the rest of the year.” With a skeleton crew on a seventeen-day shoot with only 112,000 Euros (75% of the budget funded by the Irish Board), the shoestring indie went on to be lightning in a bottle, making over twenty million dollars worldwide in the box office. That lightening can be captured and summarized by one scene and song, “Falling Slowly” played in Walton’s music shop in Dublin, with Hansard on guitar and Irglová on piano. So in synced and harmonious, the duo’s soft yet poignant duet encapsulated the film’s tenderness with tremendous love and affection.
The song went on to peak at number two on the Irish Singles Chart and won the Academy Award for Best Original Song in February 2008. Even after the film’s success, Hansard and Irglová went on to sing as the band The Swell Season and opened for Bob Dylan on his World Tour. The magic of “Guy” and “Girl” in Once blossomed in and out of the film’s universe, making it one of the most transcending duets in cinema history and one of the best film bands of all time.
Like many summer romances, being a once in a lifetime moment, the film’s title refers to the many very talented artists that John Carney knew who put off their career by saying “once” they get this and that sorted out, but never succeed because they have put it off too long. Not such the case for Hansard and Irglová. Like many summer romances, as the dog days of the season fade away, so does the fling. Both Hansard and Irglová have stated that they’re unlikely to ever act again and will concentrate on music. Although short and far too sweet, the duet’s performance will long be cherished and remembered.
– Christopher Clemente