June 22, 2011


'The Swell Season': How Documentaries Can Tell Stories We Don't Want To Hear (Linda Holmes, 6/21/11, NPR)

As a work of fiction, The Swell Season, the documentary about the band of the same name that opened the Silverdocs film festival in Silver Spring, Md., on Monday night, would have been the wrong story to a lot of people. That's because what happens is, at one level, completely unsatisfying. The sketch goes like this: Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova make the practically no-budget movie Once, it becomes an indie hit, they win an Oscar for Best Original Song for the beautiful "Falling Slowly," they give enormously memorable speeches, and they go from playing smallish venues to playing Radio City. And of course, they fall in love.

And it doesn't work out.

The film, from directors Nick August-Perna, Chris Dapkins, and Carlo Mirabella-Davis, doesn't point fingers about any one dramatic reason why it doesn't work out. There are, as there often are, lots of reasons. She's very young — the movie was filmed over a couple of years, but she's roughly 19 when a lot of it is happening, and he's in his mid-thirties and left school at 13 to make music, so they're in wildly different stages of both their lives and their careers. They react to the sudden onslaught of attention from strangers totally differently. And you sense that the same huge, passionate reactions to everything that make him so charismatic also sometimes make her tired.

It's just ... not quite going to work out.

But what's lovely about it — and ultimately very satisfying — is that it's a busted romance, not a busted love story.

Glen explains at one point that breaking up has made them closer, and the film ends with him performing, but more with Marketa watching him perform. Standing in the wings, she has all the giddy joy on her face that you would have watching anyone that you really, really loved doing something that he really, really loves doing. Make no mistake: this is a really beautiful love story. It's just a busted romance. It's sad, but ... it's really not sad.

Boy doesn't get girl saved the original film.

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Posted by at June 22, 2011 5:49 AM

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