Prague - If someone told you that a modest and unobtrusive modern day film musical where the usual leading acting stars are replaced by non-actors will become a multi-awarded smash hit, maybe you would question that person's sanity.
Yet, this is precisely the case with Once, a simple film with a simple name, that has been collecting one award after another and is touted to be a dark horse for next year's Oscars.
Irish and Czech musicians Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová recreated for the silver screen what they once really experienced, trying to answer one simple question: How many times do you meet the right person?
A sort of homecoming
After winning the Audience Award at the American Sundance festival, Once received another award at the London Raindance Festival and the inevitable Oscar buzz followed.
With the history of leaving most if not all reviewers raving and with a pat on the back from "huge budget storyteller" Steven Spielberg, 150 thousand dollar movie has entered Czech theatres last week.
The film was first shown in the Czech Republic during the Music On Film Film On Music Festival in Prague earlier this month.
After the special screening, Hansard, lead singer and guitarist of the Irish rock group The Frames, and Irglová, hitherto little know musician and song-writer, took over the stage in Prague's Lucerna cinema hall with a set of their songs.
Fourteen days in Dublin
The movie came into being during fourteen shooting days in Dublin streets and in authentic interiors.
It tells the story of a street busker (Hansard) and a Czech immigrant (Irglová), who peddles flowers and falls for the sound of his songs, during an eventful week as they write, rehearse and record songs that reveal their unique love story.
"Except for acting itself because I am not an actor it was hard to shoot in the streets of Dublin," Hansard says.
"The Frames are quite famous in Ireland, so whenever I appeared somewhere, people came, greeted me, and took pictures of me with their mobile phones. That's why the director John Carney had to hide the camera on the opposite side of the street in a gateway, not to attract attention towards us. The guy I was playing was supposed to be completely anonymous."
The message of the movie is believable because Hansard and Irglová are interpreting their own songs and through them they communicate.
Besides, Glen Hansard is really playing himself as a street musician, because that is exactly how he used to support himself after leaving school at the age of thirteen.
He has been leading The Frames for nearly seventeen years now and with the formation being universally acknowledged as the biggest Irish band after U2, being at the centre of attention is certainly not a new experience for him.
"We also had to hide, because busking is considered an act of vagrancy and beggary in Ireland. I myself have a criminal record for this. So whenever a cop appeared, I put the guitar away and camera was switched off and taken away. It was thrilling; even Werner Herzog says, that movies are no longer good, because they lost their criminal aspect," Hansard quotes the Croatian-born cult film director from Germany.
Having stopped in Prague, the travelling circus of Once, comprising the director John Carney and the two main actors, continues with their promotion tour.
They now go to Asia to win the hearts and minds of film lovers there, their schedule tightly set for the next six months, which is well past the Oscar ceremony. Modesty aside, there might be a need for minor rescheduling come the end February.