Song of the Day #3,524: ‘Falling Slowly’ – Glen Hansard & Markéta Irglová

My next two featured Academy Award-winning songs are integral not just to the films’ atmosphere but to their plots.

Writer-director John Carney’s 2007 film Once follows two aspiring musicians in Dublin who bond over their creative passion but are destined to not end up together. It is a tender, bittersweet film that strings together a handful of wonderful musical set pieces.

One of the best is the first performance of ‘Falling Down,’ the song that was later nominated for and won the Best Original Song Oscar.

Guy (Glen Hansard) and Girl (Markéta Irglová) visit a music store, where he teaches her one of his songs as she follows along on piano. We watch in real time as they fall in love not so much with each other but with the music they’re making.

Carney’s direction of this scene is masterful. He establishes the action with a medium shot of the two performers playing the song, then cuts to a handheld shot as they are increasingly absorbed by the music. Returning to the original shot, he slowly pushes in until Hansard’s and Irglová’s faces fill each side of the screen. He depicts their growing bond through his framing. Toward the end of the song, he pulls back, giving them space, and cuts away to the bemused shopkeeper, reminding us (because it’s easy to forget) that they’re having this intimate moment in a public space. Finally, the song’s final notes play as Carney cuts to Guy and Girl walking through the street and taking a bus, connecting the music shop moment to their continued conversation.

The way this clip ends reminds me of a scene in one of my all-time favorite movies, Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise (1995). In that film, Celine (Julie Delpy) and Jesse (Ethan Hawke) listen to a song in a music store listening booth, awkwardly avoiding the fact that they’re already falling in love. Linklater cuts away from the booth but keeps the song on the soundtrack as the pair continue to explore Vienna.

Once was frequently compared to Before Sunrise, and I wonder if Carney viewed the film as an inspiration.

[Verse 1]
I don’t know you
But I want you
All the more for that
Words fall through me
And always fool me
And I can’t react

[Pre-Chorus]
And games that never amount
To more than they’re meant
Will play themselves out

[Chorus]
Take this sinking boat and point it home
We’ve still got time
Raise your hopeful voice you have a choice
You’ll make it now

[Verse 2]
Falling slowly, eyes that know me
And I can’t go back
Moods that take me and erase me
And I’m painted black

[Pre-Chorus 2]
You have suffered enough
And warred with yourself
It’s time that you won

[Chorus]
Take this sinking boat and point it home
We’ve still got time
Raise your hopeful voice you have a choice
You’ll make it now

[Chorus 2]
Falling slowly sing your melody
I’ll sing along

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4 thoughts on “Song of the Day #3,524: ‘Falling Slowly’ – Glen Hansard & Markéta Irglová

  1. Dana Gallup says:

    Such a beautiful song, scene and film.

  2. Maddie says:

    Love John Carney’s films so much. Looking forward to whatever he has coming next.

  3. Amy says:

    This film was a relevation to me, and the music was a tremendous reason for how much it moved me. I listen to few soundtracks, but this one was on a constant rotation for a while.

  4. flittergold says:

    “We watch in real time as they fall in love not so much with each other but with the music they’re making.”

    That’s key I think. The music we love is so often a mediator through which we connect. It makes sense that would be intensified for musicians in the process of creation.

    As I suspect it was for many who saw this movie, I found the harmony so beautiful that the only lyrics I noted were the chorus. Interesting to see them laid out here. It’s a song that turns down the analytical power of the brain. Just like love.

    Thanks for the post.

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