By Acadia Otlowski
The first minute of The Red Balloon, directed by Albert Lamorisse, started silent, and then eased into an old-style instrumental. The first scene opens with a little boy and a dog standing in front of an ocean backdrop, carrying a suitcase.
The little boy, whose name is Pascal Lamorisse, is walking towards a destination when he spots a red balloon tied to a streetlight. He climbs the lamppost and retrieves the balloon and continues on his way to school.
When Lamorisse walks into a town center, the music fades into the sounds of the street, but no specific dialog. The film fades between these two sounds throughout the majority of the movie. There is a little bit of dialog, but it is all in French with subtitles and is actually unnecessary to the overall story.
The film moves throughout a few days in the life of the little boy. He goes to school, goes home and tries to ride the trolley. But throughout these days, the balloon gets Lamorisse in trouble. None of the adults want the balloon in the buildings and so Lamorisse gets scolded and the balloon gets thrown outside.
It is then that the balloon starts to display some unusual characteristics. The balloon moves on its own, and will not float away. It also bothers and teases people. The balloon takes on the characteristics of a human being.
The other people in the movie are amazed by the balloon, and the little boys in the neighborhood steal the balloon from Lamorisse. Eventually they hit the balloon with a slingshot and it floats to the ground, where a boy steps on it and “kills” the balloon. They leave Lamorisse alone to mourn over the remains of the balloon.
From all over the city, balloons are leaving their current owners and traveling towards the sad little boy. They come together and he grabs all their strings. The movie closes with the balloons lifting Lamorisse up and taking him for a ride over the city.
This movie is surprisingly powerful for something so short. Because there is so little dialog, one has to pay very close attention to avoid missing major events. The only changes were sounds from the streets and switch between music and street noise.
The balloon was a powerful symbol. The rest of the people and the setting were gray and dim compared to the vibrancy of the red balloon. The balloon could have been a symbol of individualism. All the other kids and the adults stared at the balloon, hated the balloon, but also wanted to possess the balloon in some way. They were envious of the little boy for having the balloon and the adults in the movie attempted to keep him away from it, to have him blend in with the rest of the pack.
I really enjoyed this movie. It’s readily apparent that the movie was made in 1956, for it lacks all the explosions and gimmicks that we expect from modern movies. The plot was slow, simple and powerful. The viewer becomes attached to the balloon and the little boy as the plot goes on.
The “death” of the balloon is drawn out and hit me quite hard. It was odd being sad over the loss of a balloon, but in the entire course of this short film, the balloon became a character that the viewer could support and root for.
The movie was quite the departure from things that I am used to watching and that’s a positive thing. It takes a certain level of skill to weave an easily understood story with minimal use of dialog. The story was created off visuals, sounds and music. The Red Balloon is a movie that will not become outdated, because of the sheer simplicity by which it was created.