Once poster

A friend recently wrote this on FB, in the context of an interview about her book, ‘Trust Me’ – “About trust, I feel that when in doubt, it’s important to ‘trust smart’. Rather than thinking, ‘Can I trust this person?’ it might be better to think, ‘Can I trust this person to do this?’ When we don’t make value judgments and blanket statements, we are more likely to find the right answers….”

Ever since I read this, I have been thinking about how clever, how easy this is. Of course, this is the way life works. In our day-to-day encounters, we trust people for little things, specific things; we do not always invest everyone with all our trust. But by and large, if we are trustful, we conduct our daily lives, with an innate belief that the other person will do ‘this’ or ‘that’ as they should.

‘Once’ (2006), written and directed by John Carney, resounds with this trust in life, in people, in love. It is a film like an encounter, a chance meeting with someone who does not mean much in your life, who you will probably never even meet again, but who leaves you with an immense sense of goodwill, of happiness. It could be a conversation, a look, a smile, a touch, some shared laughter.

In ‘Once’ it is music. The film defies all predictability about a music film, about falling in love, about relationships, about life choices. It merely unfolds in the present, and we see a friendship and an attraction grow between two people, a musician who plays on the street (Glen Hansard) and an immigrant musician who sells flowers (Marketa Irglova).

They share their love stories; they share their dreams, their vulnerability. For a brief moment, they trust each other.

This trust also spills through in the minor exchanges with other characters, Glen’s father, Marketa’s mother, the recording studio technician who is indifferent at first but soon becomes involved with their music, Marketa’s neighbours who pile into her flat every evening to watch television, even the tramp on the street who regularly steals Glen’s money.

Both Glen and Marketa are not actors, but musicians, and their performances seem completely off the cuff. The music is haunting, lovely, conversations about their lost loves. The song, ‘Falling Slowly’ won the Oscar for Best Original Song in 2007.

A lot of the film has the quality of improvisation, aided by the way it is shot. Long takes, shot in the city – Dublin, at times obviously in non-controlled situations. (Shot by Tim Fleming)

In one sequence, Marketa goes out at night, to buy batteries for the tape recorder Glen has given her, so that she can listen to his music, and work on the song she is writing. Some girls look at her curiously as she comes out of the drugstore singing ‘If you want me, satisfy me’. Later they follow her on skateboards. It is an absolutely brilliant moment, the magic that happens when everything is not under control.

The film reminded me of first watching ‘Tokyo Story’ (Ozu, 1953). It was the second film I saw at FTII, before I joined the Institute. Used to the good and bad parameters of Hindi cinema, I watched the entire film with a whole lot of clichés waiting to happen in my mind. I came out of the Main Theatre thinking, “I was waiting all the time to be slapped on the face, but it never happened.” I came out feeling happy.

For a little bit of happiness, watch ‘If you want me, satisfy me.’ From the film.