Film in Review: “The Swell Season” at SILVERDOCS Documentary Festival

Film & Animation / June 22, 2011

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The Swell SeasonIn 2007, a quiet little indie film called Once exploded on the film festival circuit and soon became an international hit, even garnering an Academy Award for Best Song for the film’s two leads Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová.

Soon after the success of Once, the fictional romance that develops between the two in the film became a reality, and the duo toured the world as the musical group The Swell Season.

The film, The Swell Season, directed by Nick August-Perna, Chris Dapkins, and Carlo Mirabella-Davis follows the duo on tour during their life after the success of Once.

Gorgeously shot in gritty black and white, the film, as the directors state, “combines an old, classic fiction film sensibility with the narrative of a traditional road documentary”.

In the opening of the film, Markéta gives Glen a haircut in their taut, little Irish bungalow, when he remarks “Isn’t it a great life we have?”

It’s one of the many defining moments of the film that aptly captures the  poignant honesty and very personal moments of their relationship. Throughout the film, we see and feel the struggle that Glen and Markéta face because of their sudden fame.

Markéta, a young Czech girl from a small village was only 19 when she won the Oscar for Once, and her instant fame and attention is something that she struggles to adapt to while on the road.

The Swell SeasonMeanwhile, Glen, a longtime passionate musician and about 20 years her senior, is fighting the idea that “the award defines him”.

With these issues constantly at the forefront of the duo’s life, it eventually leads to the deterioration of their romantic relationship, all of which is intimately and tastefully captured within the film.

In one defining scene, Glen and Markéta get into an argument over breakfast one morning at a cafe. Glen is recovering from an argument he had the night before with his mother about his Oscar and how he felt it didn’t really mean anything to him. As he explains his feelings to Markéta, she doesn’t take the position he wanted, and they get into a big fight.

It’s the moment in the film that really captures the essence of their problems and the downfall of their relationship.

Like any great music documentary, The Swell Season works because it has a story to share.

A story that’s behind the music and behind the public eye humanizes the struggles of its subjects.

Stylish and intriguing, The Swell Season is certainly a must-see for any fans of Once and the band, but it also offers a intimate and emotional look into the struggles that come with instant fame.

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Matt Cohen
Matt Cohen
Matt is currently obsessed with Rap Snacks, post-hardcore, pizza parties, and Carl Sagan's Cosmos.

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June 22, 2011

Film in Review: "The Swell Season" at SILVERDOCS Documentary Festival