Published Jan 12, 2012Back in 2007, one of the big bandwagons to hop on was that of championing songwriting collaborators Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová, the harmonious and complementary duo that starred in the exceedingly low budget and astoundingly unremarkable Irish film Once.
Their humble, underdog romance, paired with infectious melodies that perfectly captured the idealistic passion of nascent relationships, managed to snag an Oscar for best song, making the unknown couple an immediate household name. Of course, with big success comes the big question of, "What next?"
With candid observations, first-person interviews and extensive documentation of Hansard and Irglová's subsequent two-year tour, the black & white, and surprisingly intimate, doc, The Swell Season, answers this question from more of a philosophical perspective. Some acknowledgement of future projects is made, particularly in the first half, but what we witness is the existential nature of fulfilling a dream partnered with the painful reality of growing apart from the one you love.
Hansard is initially comfortable with the demands of success, catering to the expectations of public appearances, signature signings and basking in the glow of peer validation. Meanwhile, Irglová questions many of these customs, disagreeing with Hansard about the necessity of it all and the overall sincerity of celebrity. Yet, at the same time, Hansard is the one to ask why any of it matters, having a candid conversation with his proud mother about the relevance of his great grandchildren knowing him for winning an Oscar.
As Irglová grows impatient with her lover's constant struggle ― herself not caring as much about her role in the limelight ― their relationship slowly dissolves on film, which is of course given substantial emotional heft by the intense and impassioned musical performances strewn throughout.
It's this exploration of the supposed "happily ever after" that gives The Swell Season its power, making it a far more intelligent, but disheartening, companion piece to the sweet-natured and whimsical Once. (Mongrel Media)