Albert Lamorisse directed an award-winning piece, Le Ballon Rouge, in 1956. It won, among multiple other awards, an Oscar. Foreign language didn’t make the film difficult to understand outside of France since few words are spoken throughout. It is a visual experience that can be appreciated by audiences of all ages. The children, the adults, and the red balloon in the film all have their own unique traits and desires which people can relate to easily.
In the beginning of the film, a young boy named Pascal shimmies up a short street pole after seeing a bright balloon near the top. He snatches, then carries it with him to a bus stop, but cannot take it on the bus. He decides to keep it anyways and head to school on foot. Under numerous strangers’ umbrellas, he protects it from the rain, oblivious to the many heads turning to watch as he walks by. When he finally arrives at school, the other children gather and leap for the balloon, which remains slightly out of their reach.
Boys besides Pascal become intent on destroying the balloon, simply because they can. Nobody interferes with their ploys to catch their target. The mischievous boys hide in alleyways, chase Pascal, and even attach a second string to the balloon in attempts to capture it. They won’t give up until they get exactly what they want: to rid the world of the balloon by any means possible.
Pascal, on the other hand, wants nothing but to protect the balloon to which he is so attached. He keeps it sheltered, tries to leave it in the care of a man sweeping the road when he can’t take it to class, rejects a bus ride to school for it, pulls it from bullies, and runs away from crowds in pursuit of the bright red balloon. Despite the fact that it is being hunted, he is happy to have it close. The children’s world is composed of opposite feelings and actions constantly at war with each other.
The balloon’s existence is entirely different. It doesn’t seem to fear its capture the way Pascal does.
Le Ballon Rouge; Albert Lamorisse; Pascal Lamorisse; 2007; Video; Films Montsouris, 1957
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