What Connects Us All

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“Hope, at the end of the day, is what connects us all.”

So said Marketa Irglova at this year’s Academy Awards after she and co-writer Glen Hansard won the Oscar® for Best Song. As of the award show I had seen the movie Once, uh, twice. Jamie has a knack for falling asleep during movies, no matter how much she likes ’em. She’ll be wide awake one minute, and all of a sudden all those motherhood responsibilities from the day–homeschooling and cooking and teaching piano lessons to the neighborhood kids–sneak up on her and knock her out cold. (Have I mentioned that I think my wife is a remarkable person?)

So there I was on the couch, finishing up Once while my wife slept with her head in my lap. At the end of the movie I was left with such a bittersweet sense of satisfaction that I’m pretty sure my sniffles woke Jamie up. The next day I re-watched the movie and made her stay awake this time, and she was equally moved. (I don’t think I’ve ever before watched the same movie twice in 24 hours.)

So this little independent Irish film made my list of favorites, and I don’t think it’s just because it’s about a songwriter. I got the feeling that the movie has the potential to touch the hearts of all kinds of people, because of the very thing Irglova said at the Oscars®: “Hope, at the end of the day, is what connects us all.”

You’ll have to keep in mind that in Ireland, the F word is about as common as “the” in the U.S. of A. If that’s a hurdle for you, pass on this one. But there’s something really special about this film. It’s hard to say exactly what it is. Maybe it’s the really good songs, or the independent spirit of the filmmakers, or the extremely likable lead actors (in real life and in the film), or the thematic elements of the story itself. Either way, something good came together, and it was a thrill to see that the Academy recognized it.

I love to see the underdog win, so I almost came out of my chair when Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova won the award. The only downside was that they cut off Marketa before she could say her thanks. But wait! After the commercial break, John Stewart, in a classy move, invited her back out to enjoy her moment and offer her thanks. What she had to say was good, and I had the feeling that it was a fine moment for struggling independent singer/songwriters everywhere.

Here’s the chorus:

Take this sinking boat and point it home
We’ve still got time
Raise your hopeful voice, you have a choice
You’ve made it now

Here’s the video, with scenes from the film, and below it is a link to the acceptance speech. Glen and Marketa may live in Ireland, but watching this makes me as proud of them as if they were a part of our Nashville community.

Click here to watch the acceptance speech.

As a singer-songwriter and recording artist, Andrew has released more than ten records over the past fifteen years. His music has earned him a reputation for writing songs that connect with his listeners in ways equally powerful, poetic, and intimate. He has also followed his gifts into the realm of publishing. His books include the four volumes of the award-winning Wingfeather Saga.


26 Comments

  1. Chris Hubbs

    It *is* a wonderful, likable movie, and that moment at the Oscars was amazing. The soundtrack from the movie is near the top of my most-played list on the iPod.

  2. lyndsay

    AWESOME! i have goosebumps at 8am! we actually DID come out of our chairs when they won the oscar! the movie touched me so much that i felt like they were my friends up on stage, nervously but excellently singing their song in front of millions, and then accepting our praise of their story and music. chris and i are all but obsessed with the soundtrack!

  3. Lawrence Connolly

    Given her talents, I challenge anyone in the US to find a young woman as pure, sincere and humble as Marketa Irglova. She is a candle in the vast cultural darkness. May she be blessed to have her light grow.

  4. Chris Slaten

    SPOILER* AVERT THINE EYES IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE MOVIE.
    My new sis-in-law speaks Czech. Marketa’s character’s uninterpreted cliffside confession: “No, but I love you.”
    She told me that that is what she said after I had seen the movie twice. I guess I should have known, but it still effected how I thought about the story. Feel free to remove this post if you feel like it would ruin the movie for those who haven’t seen it, but I thought that was cool.

    That was the about the only awards ceremony I’ve seen where I actually cared who won.

  5. Josh

    I caught this video lat one night on Vh1’s insomniac show and it literally stopped me dead in my tracks. I was in the process of getting in my bed after playing a show one weekend and I literally froze in mid air when I heard them hit that falcetto harmony on “tiiimmmmeee” and it wouldn’t let me go until the song was over. It was a great moment and I’m extremely happy to have unexpectedly found out where it came from. Even more happy to find out that said source is a highly recommended independent Irish film. This has been a good day.

  6. Jenni

    I just received this film from Netflix and I can’t wait – I’ve heard nothing but amazing things. The song is just lovely.

    I second Karen Peris.
    🙂

  7. Chris R

    Brilliant movie, even more brilliant song. I love the ending…so right, so un-Hollywood, but the music of this film was brilliant. And classy move by Stewart to invite her back out. I love that Glen Hansard described the song as “You are at a party with your girlfriend, and she leaves to go get a drink, so you are standing there. Across the room your eyes stops on this girl who is just beautiful; she is the woman of your dreams, you can tell you were just meant for each other. She starts walking across the room towards you and then you realize, “That is my girlfriend.” So this song describes that feeling”… that is great

  8. janna

    I looked this stuff up the day after the Oscars to watch it again. I also loved what Glen said, with his Irish accent, at the end of his speech: “Make art. Make art. Make art!”

  9. Jason Gray

    @jasongray

    This movie was hyped to me alot, which usually means I won’t like it. But in spite of all that, I loved this movie too. Perhaps because there is no hype whatsoever in the movie. It’s kind of a like a quiet meditations (with a lot of “f” words 🙂 Once had me with the opening scene of Glen playing alone on a street corner. When he dug into that guitar and sang his “barbaric yawp” (to quote the Dead Poet’s Society) I was in for wherever else they wanted to take me.

    I thought the movie had a very beautiful morality to it, too. I’ll try to not give too much away, but I loved the ending, especially the scene where you see the husband and he appears to be relatively loving and tender. The voice of the girlfriend in London, too, is sweet. Difficult to demonize either of them. There is a delightful lack of stereotypical caricatures in the movie, all the characters have complexities and vacillating motives that make them believable. I guess what I mean is that I didn’t feel manipulated by the end of the movie.

    And for musicians! This movie documents some of the delightful details of what we do – like them have to give the record a road test with the crappy car speakers. That’s so how it is…

    Great music, charming actors, a real human story. I loved it. Thought about it for days afterwards.

  10. Linda Gilmore

    I, too, loved this movie (and watched it again before I sent it back to Netflix). It gets into your heart and stays there. There’s a lot of good moments, but I especially like the scene where she goes out to buy batteries in her pajamas and fuzzy slippers, then is walking back listening to the music and singing along, completely absorbed in the music. Wonderful.

  11. Jeff

    Linda, I’m with you. That was a great scene. Some really rich long camera shots in this movie. Reading this reminds me that I want to buy the CD.

  12. Lynn sharp

    I as well loved this movie (rented it off itunes … for those with a need for instant gratification). It was delightful to see them win at the Oscars. How wonderful for a movie that is the antithesis of big Hollywood to win one of it’s most prestigious awards.

  13. Marc

    I know we usually all like to agree agee agree. I have written on some posts and have agreed a lot. I am a huge AP fan and that is actually why I am even in the Rabbit Room and why I am even writing now. If it were someone else I probably would just keep scrolling, but I don’t think I should. I will start with something we all will agree on- The song “Falling Slowly” is amazing, simple and beautiful. I love it!
    Now to something else…I did not watch the movie, but as I read AP’s post I was surprised about the so called language “hurdle”. So, I checked it out for myself. I just don’t think a 90 min. movie that contains 39 “f” words could be recommendable or beneficial. The concept or message of this movie, however good, does not/ cannot trump biblical truth and purity. Why is it ok to watch or listen to something that is certainly unbiblical? I disagree that this is only a cultural issue, it is an biblical/ edification issue.
    I am sorry to rain of the parade of praise for “Once” but maybe thats what the RR needs, more discussion. I love the RR and hope to continue to be encouraged by it. I am thankful to AP for his heart and his music I have been blessed by both.
    Please hear my heart.

    I am I alone in this Room on this issue?

  14. becky

    I have to admit to feeling ambivalent about the movie. On the one hand, I love the music and MUST get the soundtrack. I know it will be one of my favorites. Hansard and Irglova were great to watch; Irglova especially is so appealing. I loved when she was pulling her vacuum around on the streets like a dog on a leash, or one of those children’s pull toys. I, too, liked the battery scene, and I liked the way the movie ended.

    On the other hand, it seemed like a long music video to me. Or like a modern, independent film version of “Oklahoma”, or some other musical where people are bursting into song at somewhat inappropriate moments. (Although with a better plot.) Part of my reaction to this may have been that I knew absolutely nothing about the movie before I saw it, so I wasn’t prepared. Perhaps I might feel differently about it if I saw it again now, knowing what to expect.

  15. Dan K

    Marc. I agree with you.
    I had the same discussion with someone telling me that Pulp Fiction was a good movie; I’ve seen it, no it isn’t. That was the 1st movie when I started turning things off and walking away from media that hurts my ears. Just having a mental filter wasn’t sufficient for me. I can no longer pretend I didn’t hear it, or won’t remember it. Thinking it is a short step from saying it.

    I haven’t seen Once, so I cannot comment on it. Hearing the f-bomb caveat I doubt it will enter my house. I think there is some cultural aspect to british/irish language but it is not a blanket approval. I loved Waking Ned Devine and don’t remember any f-bomb issues.

    In my former days f-bombs would be no problem (actually sought) but I’m a new creation. This is one of the easiest areas for me to trip, so I flee from it (or at least try). I struggle enough working in a machine shop environment and not letting it creep in during those times. From past efforts/experience, I can usually walk the line of fitting in at work and not letting it show up at home. Never the two shall meet. In truth, I end up lying in one environment or the other; evil is a subtle creeping pressure that is happy with believers taking the stradling compromise position. I am probably hyper-sensitive to this since it’s a battleground for me.

    Sorry to chase a rabbit on a trail off the main path. But this is the Rabbit Room. Once might be a catalyst for a whole new discussion on appropriate media/entertainment.

  16. Andrew Peterson

    @andrew

    This is a short note to let you know that I’m not avoiding this discussion. The writing part of my brain has been tapped lately, but I do want to offer a reply to your thoughts, hopefully later today…

    AP

  17. Melinda

    Dan, Marc; you raise some good questions.

    I come from the position of absolutely loving Once. I’m a writer and musician, and I was so engaged by the passion and the beauty with which Hansard and Irglova sang and played, and the simplicity of the plot … I loved it.

    In college, I did a book study on “The Idea of a Christian College” by Arthur Holmes (I know, it sounds thrilling, right? Ha — I promise it was good.) He discusses in great detail the idea that Christians have nothing to fear from being truly educated, and from learning as much as possible about the world around us. He discusses the idea that “all truth is God’s truth, wherever it is found,” meaning, glimpses of the eternal can be seen in things that have nothing to do with church, with being “Christian,” etc., yet Christians can still glean and grow and learn incredibly valuable things through them (i.e., literature, science, the arts, etc.) I realize that this could be a potentially slippery slope of justification for studying overtly immoral things; and thus, it requires true discretion and responsibility. Somehow though, I resonate with that statement, that I can find truths about God and His heart when I’m reading about physics, or when I’m reading ancient Greek literature, or studying English, listening to a symphony, going running, or watching Once. I love that I have the freedom in Christ to take pieces of art and view them critically, through the lenses of truth. I love that I can glean valuable insights into the beauty, creativity, and passion of God by seeing it reflected in the people He’s created; even if their work isn’t overtly “Christian” in nature.

    I realize that Holmes’ speaks mostly to the academic process, but I think a lot of his insights are translatable to life as a whole. I think there’s such a beautiful, challenging responsibility in being a follower of Jesus. A responsibility to be truly alive. A responsibility to be unafraid of listening, unafraid of thinking about the world around me, and about the art created by those living here. And yet, at the same time, this grave responsibility to compare and contrast what I see to the unchanging, eternal truths of Jesus Christ and the redemption that He brings; and ultimately, the responsibility to love Him and glorify Him through the way I live.

    I’m not entirely sure what it looks like to do these two at the same time, and to live in a manner “worthy of the calling we have received.” I’m not sure how to do this and be continually above reproach. I still have a lot of questions about it, and I’d love to hear more of everyone’s thoughts and ideas on the matter – it’s certainly a complex issue, and there are roughly a billion ways to approach and think about it. 🙂

    But yes, overall, I think it’s a beautiful movie, and despite its many imperfections, I think it provides a beautiful picture of the haunting power of a song, a melody, a lyric. I think there’s much to appreciate.

  18. Dan K

    I’ve watched the video link about 4x now. Sounds terrific. I truly cannot praise or bash a movie I have not seen. My wife tends not to be so open to f-bombs (a different perspective and God bless her for it) and somehow even if i watched it at 1am, my 4 year will be saying it the next day. She has very good ears. If I have to keep my kids I’ll probably be just fine with not seeing it.

    SIDE TOPIC:
    One of Melinda’s other points was regarding schooling.
    I live beside a Christian college campus and often wonder, what happens when students go from Christian school thru HS into Christian College and then into the secular world? Is there a great struggle with relating to the “real” world. Do they start sinking once they’re out of the boat and see the waters around them. I went to a public HS and college and saw many college students seem to be incapable of handling their newfound freedom and do serious damage. Is Christian schooling helping believers to be prepared or weakening their armor before they face the world? I have no real point or perspective and I find myself arguing both sides; just some open wandering.

    As it was stated, a complex issue. Like many issues there is a grey inbetween the black and white. I don’t hold the films or media to some set standard, it’s a standard I set on myself. I struggle to meet the goal and avoid tripping wherever I can. This is a more troublesome area for me than may be for others. When I’m thinking right I avoid things that will be trip hazards.

    This is all tied to the what is “good art” discussions that have percolated on here very often and have been discussions for a long time and will continue to be so.
    Here’s what I’ve gathered so far. And forgive me if this seems formulaic, it’s how I end up putting things together to get an understanding for complex issues. All of this will probably be different in my head in 1 hour. Good is thrown around generically and includes Holy (Godly), inherent truth (reflecting God and/or His truth), and inherent beauty (craftsmanship). Containing only one of these qualities does not make it good; it needs at least 2. Getting very mathmatical, 1 point is just a dot and defines very little, 2 points define a line that can exist on many planes. 3 points define a plane; within that plane there is a horizontal and vertical. Just because something is Holy in aim doesn’t mean it is good art. My stubs pounding on guitar strings will not produce good music even if my only lyric is “Jesus is Lord”. It may be a sincere offering and beneficial in my personal worship of God, but it will not be good art.

    I wondered about many of the movies from the AP best films of 2007 list. Part of me wants to see each and everyone of them. Part of me knows to avoid the ones that didn’t pass muster with Jamie (Mrs. AP). Alas I haven’t seen as many films as before I had kids. But many more Veggietales. Now that is good art.

  19. easton crow

    Oh why not join in the conversation. I really find this a tough subject, too. I love the fact that liberty encompasses allowing us “meat sacrificed to idols” and allows us to avoid meat altogether. Here’s my personal take on cussing, and I’d love to hear smart people discuss it. Swearing is a sin, flat out. We cannot and must not take God;s name in vain. Cussing is socially poor taste. So, I don’t have nearly as much problem with someone cussing. But when it comes to reading and viewing, how does that fit in with whatever is true, beautiful, virtuous, etc? Can a character who is drawn and played truthfully and with great beauty still be so if he uses language that is true to his character? Ug. Couldn’t we just not think about this and let someone come up with nice pre-approved Christian things for us to watch and read? Why do I come up with a difference between “Once” and “No Country for Old Men”, niether of which I have seen? “Once” I would gladly see bad words and all becuase it tells an uplifting story that will make me happy. No COuntry I won’t see becuase I can’t imagine how anything wickedly violent could be worth my time. But that is more down to how I feel about it, and not how I think God thinks about it. Ew. my brain hurts now. I’m going to go listen to a Gaither Homecoming album and watch the Crystal Cathedral.

  20. The Rabbit Room

    […] those of you who didn’t read my post or its comments from a few days ago entitled “What Connects Us All,” here’s a recap. I recommended Once,the independent Irish film about a songwriter, […]

  21. Tony Heringer

    Barliman,

    My wife purchased “Once” (cheaper than a rental) as a way to connect with the young worship leader types at our church. She works with them on projects that involve the arts academy she directs. They all raved about the film in a similar fashion to some of the comments here. We watched it last week-end for the second time picking up at the point where she fell asleep the week-end before. I too fell in and out of sleep during the first run but watched through to the end.

    In reading through the posts, the singer/song writers and just plain writers seem to dig this movie. I can see the charm of it, the “look at the creative process” feel of it and find the music has a haunting quality to it.

    They intended for it to be a musical. For the most part it is, but as was noted above, it kind of veers off into music video territory. The acting is a bit sloppy, but when you hear in the commentary that they intentionally went low-budget, that the “script” essentially consisted of bullet points, and the primary actors are not actors by trade but, musicians that can somewhat act (instead of the other way ‘round) well, that explains it.

    As for the language, that was comical and it does mar the overall production value of the film. Particularly odd is use of the dreaded F-word by Marketa (just “Girl” in the movie credits); especially her use of it in reference to the batteries. By the way Barliman, she’s not Irish, so is the Czech Republic also a vulgar place?

    I think the foul language is gratuitous in this film. Watch the commentaries on the DVD. There is no real swearing in those. The “making of” “featurette” makes it clear that most of the dialogue was improvised.
    It just seemed over the top to me. Like teenagers playing with their dad’s video equipment. Here’s how it probably went on set:

    Glen: “Hey, how about a song where I use the F-word a lot?!”
    Director: “Yeah! Cool man!”
    Glen: “Just making some great f-ing art!”
    Director: “Cool.”

    “Cool”, though not vulgar, is another overused word in the film. In the sequel, “Twice”, it will be replaced by “dude.”

    The scene with the “F-word song” is completed with a little old lady giving “Boy” (Hansard’s name in the film) a dirty look (She posts in the Rabbit Room too when she sees any naughty bits). She’s obviously not truly Irish or even Czech, probably a Republican. Even the father of “Boy” let’s off an F-bomb as he’s listening to the demo. Again, you can hear the sophomoric chuckles on the set: “Coooool granddad!”

    All in all this is a good movie, but not a great one. Really, its not the foul language that did it for me, but the pacing. The low-budget feel (which they intended) just comes off as clunky. I loved how “Girl” and “Boy” interacted. The vacuum cleaner she drags around is a priceless touch as is her composing the song while walking the street in her p.js’s and bunny (lamb?) slippers. But, I didn’t get enough of those moments of whimsy to think they were sincere and not just gimmicks. Okay, I also liked the song where she used her daughter’s toy piano. That too was whimsical and probably my favorite song in the movie.

    I do think there is a great morality to the story (as Jason noted) in spite of the sophomoric dialogue. The story thread from start to finish holds together. Here are two people who push each other to do the right thing. With a real script, I think this could have been a great movie.

  22. Matt McBrien

    Due to this weeks American Idol, on which my favorite contestant, Kris, sang Falling Slowly, I was reminded of this great post on the Rabbit Room. This post introduced me to the movie Once, which I thoroughly loved, and the soundtrack which I enjoy even more.

    Thanks guys.

  23. Ben Ward

    I’m revisiting this post because it was my first introduction to the group now known as The Swell Season, which my wife and I enjoyed from the fourth row The Ryman Auditorium last night.

    I could gush for days about how beautiful and seemingly effortless was the music that filled the room, but for that purpose you would be better served by watching Once again or listening to Strict Joy (especially “The Deluxe Edition”).

    What I want to observe instead is the tragedy of one being “not far from the kingdom.” Glen played and the crowd sang along beautifully. He was obviously enjoying the unified voice singing a beautiful melody, and this prompted him to joke that he was “feelin’ the presence of the lord.”

    There is a sense, I think, in which that statement which he made in jest is much more true than he can imagine. He was certainly enjoying music–a creation of Christ. How unfortunate that a man should dismiss the creator and worship the creation.

    Still, he was right. The music was beautiful. Blessed be the Creator of music and all good things.

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