April 9, 2012

Quick review: THE SWELL SEASON (World Cinema Showcase)

The small indie musical Once made waves around the world; I still vividly remember the impact it had on me at the time. A tale of deep, thwarted love the film still had a happy ending with the reportedly blossoming relationship between the two leads, Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova.

They started seeing one another and touring with their band, the Swell Season. This documentary is a telling of these two people's lives after their phenomenal success (including an Oscar win for Best Original Song) and the strain in places on their relationship.

As they both struggle to redefine themselves in terms of their new-found fame they're also touring, being overwhelmed by fans and waking up in new cities. While Hansard, after years of struggling and working as a musician, seems to take to the exposure like an Irishman to whisky, Irglova finds herself struggling to maintain some sort of sense of identity. It's easy to forget how young she was (19-20) and how unlooked for the fame was. She never comes across as precocious or resentful, but intelligent about her own feelings about it. Which, unsurprisingly, Hansard simply doesn't understand.

At times it all feels a little voyeuristic as you watch this relationship, this relationship that seemed like such a real-life romantic fairytale (with music!), collapse in on itself. Footage from the road is interspersed with interviews and concerts. The interviews span a term of years with no clear indication given as to when or what stage of the relationship they're given. The clearest indicator of the intervening years is Hansard's shaggy hair and beard (or lack thereof). The bias, if any in the film, really leans more towards Hansard. There are interviews with his family (including his now deceased father) and more time spent with him and his backstory. Irglova is more generally defined in terms of how she relates to Hansard and his story.

I haven't revisited the film Once since I first saw it, and it may be some time before I do. The Swell Season was an interesting follow-up to the story, with a fair amount to recommend it, but I wonder how entirely necessary it was. 

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