Monday, February 4, 2008

Once - A Quick Look at Life and Music

I realized that music, which I've always loved, and musicals, which strangely enough I haven't, seem to have become an integral part of how I look at the world, and the worlds of the fantastic. I have seen more musicals in the last few years than I ever thought I could, but I've also been exploring recorded and live music more than I have in the last few years. Music takes us out of our everyday world and moves us somewhere else. Exactly where depends on the form and the style of music.

Previous posts here about the Waterboys were inspired by an amazing live concert that caught me up completely in the moment of the playing of the musicians. When the music is that powerful, that interesting, most anyone can tell you that in some way you are transported to somewhere in your mind, regardless of the venue you are actually at.

In film as well, music often serves to create a new place. It sends various signals to an audience. This includes sometimes suggesting to us that what is happening onscreen may just be an ideal, a fantastic twist on our reality. We do not have music around us in real life in the ways in which typical musicals present it to us.


This makes the recent film Once an interesting film to look at, because the music is presented in a style which does not take us away from reality. The main characters are musicians and the majority of the film is presented as moments when the two are singing or playing songs.

My quick insight on this film is about the first scene in which the two play together in the back of a Dublin music store. They begin playing, then singing, progressing so naturally into their song that I did feel the music taking me into a different reality. It was not fantasy, and not necessarily that far removed from my own world, but as a cinematic moment, it was different from day-to-day reality. It was a place where people connect in positive ways, which seems so rare for the real world.

The cinematography also had a huge part in contributing to this exploratory and joyful feeling. The shots were consistently close ups of both musicians. The camera caught them understanding each other as they played, and the joy they felt as they connected through music that they explored and expanded together.

A truly amazing and magical scene, which was more than I expected for a musical that is garnering praise for its documentary-like style. But exploration, joy and expansion are what the best music is all about, so maybe I should not have been surprised.

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