Review: Once OST

Ever heard of the indie film Once? Not too impressive in my opinion, though it had all the critics raving. It’s slow moving and too quiet; but arguably it might be just me. I won’t dispute that the handling of its underlying theme is refreshing in the face of run-of-the-mill Hollywood flicks that follow almost to a T the trashy guidelines of boy-meets-girl, sex, complication, grovelling and happily-ever-after with more sex than ever.

Like all indie films, it fulfils the first requirement of whimsicality (used here to describe the general feel). It speaks softly about a brimming platonic love caught in tension between its possible transcendence and inexorable realism. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a film that does not have its 2 leads caught in a sexual entanglement a half hour in. And its redeeming quality where I’m concerned is that realism wins in the end. They return to their uninspiring but satisfactory existence before the magic of connection. No fairytale bullshit because everyone has to settle and life has to take over. And they did not have sex with each other, ever (at least in the show).

But my intention had been to rave about the soundtrack. Nick Hornby is right. As you get older, you start growing comfortable enough in your own judgment to veer away from the yardstick of loudness in determining the quality of a song. For me, this applies more in the area of open endorsements…like this one. Wailing guitar riffs and hard-hitting grooves really only hold that much of my fancies. When they’re really good, at the right time, when I’m in the right mood and sometimes with the right amount of booze. And maybe the fact that they keep my toes wriggling and put that spring in my steps. But what really get me are the haunting tunes. And this particular one is incidentally the right kind of quaint.

There’s something about repetitive chords that intrigue me. I think it’s that sense of déjà vu. ‘Falling Slowly’ in this OST seems to be the hit among many people. But I’m especially piqued by ‘The Hill’, which Marketa Irglova herself movingly performs in the film. Very personally, very simply, a touch of modest reluctance at the beginning, full-blown emotions and then her voice cracks and she breaks down with an abrupt suspension of the chord she was hitting. The way those chords sound on the piano, so controlled and quietly insistent, chills me. ‘If you want me’ is another classic on my list. This time, it’s Irglova’s voice that dominates. Even her curious accent is perfect in articulating the earnestness and ethereal quality of the song. Generally too, Glen Hansard and Irglova’s voices share an uncanny compatibility that makes their harmony brilliant.

Hansard’s ‘Lies’ is easy on the ears as well. He starts out almost resignedly, soft and reminiscent, and progresses to a raw accusatory tone that is totally befitting of the lyrics. And then there is the way Irglova’s fragile voice contrasts with his rawness, almost like a pale echo wavering just an mm above.

Perfect for quiet night/dawn moments. Like now.

Credit: Koonie, for recommending this a long time ago (:

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