If you haven’t seen the Irish indie film Once yet, it’s definitely worth renting this weekend (or whenever). I saw it a few weeks ago and found it to be one of those movies where you’re not ready to talk much right afterward…so you just sit in the silence of your thoughts while the credits roll and the closing music plays quietly. I don’t want to ruin the movie because I think it’s probably better if you go into it without knowing much, but in case you need a small preview to help convince you to go rent it, here’s the video for the song “Falling Slowly” by the film’s co-stars Glen Hansard & Markéta Irglová (the song that just won an Oscar for Best Original Song in a Motion Picture).
What struck me most about Once is how simple it is — I heard it only cost around $150,000 to make and they filmed it in 17 days using Handycams — yet, after the first few minutes you hardly notice that the production quality is comparable to a lot of videos on youtube because the characters and their stories (especially their music) are so intensely real. Shortly after watching the film I went on iTunes to download “Falling Slowly” and read a few comments people left about the soundtrack, including one by a user who goes by the name “nycsuarez” that I think speaks to the heart of why the film and it’s music have been resonating with so many people. It said:
There’s something that millions of dollars, the finest – most beautiful actors, the fanciest camera work and the experienced aural work of a top Hollywood composer/soundtrack supervisor can’t buy – and that’s emotion. And authenticity. And beauty. Virtually everything contained with the film “Once” and it’s accompanying soundtrack speak to all that filmmakers and Hollywood should aspire…every song both contributes to the plot of the film, to the structure of the story and the emotions felt by both characters and individuals lucky enough to experience this great cinematic achievement.
Comments like this address not only what worked well in the film — emotion, authenticity, beauty — but they also make a fairly harsh criticism of most other Hollywood films. While thinking about nycsuarez’s comment, I realized they could have just as easily come from a person who has been going to churches for years and just finally found a specific church that approaches faith, life and worship with a realness that most other churches seem to be lacking (honesty, authenticity, they don’t take themselves too seriously, but they take God and faith very seriously). Perhaps it’s a stretch to say that Once gives a new perspective for us to see the church with, but the film definitely offers a new outlook on what is “needed” to make something meaningful, significant and/or real. It didn’t take millions of dollars and Hollywood’s best actors, producers and studios to make a film that has gained a lot of recognition and acclaim. Similarly, churches don’t need expensive sound systems, the best media tools, cool lighting effects or hip worship bands in order to usher people into the presence of God in meaningful ways. Sure, I think those things are cool and sometimes they can help enhance the worship experience, but all that is really needed are people who are open to God’s call and willing to serve the world and invite others to come together to experience the transforming hope, love and forgiveness that is found in Jesus Christ. What do you say Church? Let’s stop making it more difficult than it needs to be. Let’s allow films like Once to remind us how to be the people of God, gathered together as broken pieces and bound together by love. It’s time to become the Church, Christ’s beautiful bride. And as Stevie Wonder would sing, “Isn’t she lovely?”