Saturday, November 08, 2008

Le ballon rouge

Le ballon rougue (The Red Balloon)
dir. Albert Lamorisse

While Le ballon rougue (The Red Balloon), was officially a foreign film, because it was made in France and all of the dialogue is in French, there was so little dialogue it may as well have been a silent film. Words were not necessary to advance the plot. Pascal, a young French child finds a red balloon. He immediately bonds with the inanimate object. Pascal gave the balloon to someone to hold while he was at school, and retrieved it at the end of the day. At home, his mother released the balloon, but it hovered by a window, which allowed Pascal the opportunity to go onto the porch to retrieve it.

The viewer realized it is no ordinary balloon when it obeyed his command to come down from the porch, when Pascal was near the door to his building. The balloon, which clearly had a mind of its own, followed him to school, but did not let him hold onto the string, until the balloon relented. At school, all of the boys tried to grab the balloon, but it escaped capture.

The balloon demonstrated its loyalty to Pascal when it tormented the school official who locked him in a room as punishment. When the man let Pascal out of the room and exclaimed, “Get out of here you little pest,” the viewer was not sure whether he was referring to Pascal or the balloon. Later, a group of boys ambushed Pascal, who escaped unharmed with his balloon. However, when he left the balloon alone for a moment to buy a pastry, the other boys stole the balloon. Pascal rescued the balloon, and a chase ensued, ending with the capture of Pascal and the balloon. The boys destroyed the balloon by stepping on it. However, as if by magic, balloons from all over the city flew out of people’s hands, out of windows, and out of stores. The balloons flew to Pascal, who grabbed all of the strings and in the final shot of the movie flew over the city.

While the story was incredibly simple, it was one that many people can relate to. It is clear that Pascal is an outsider, and that the balloon was his only friend. As someone with few close friends growing up, I spent many hours playing with my stuffed animals, pretending they were real, and having adventures with them.

The viewer completely believed that the balloon has feelings, desires, and loyalty. When the balloon was following Pascal down the street, it ducked into a doorway, and proceeded to play a quick game of hide and seek with him before school. Towards the end of the film, when one of the boys had a slingshot aimed at the balloon, the balloon went down, as if begging for mercy. This sense of impending doom was heightened by the gray wall behind the balloon, which gave it the ambiance of a prisoner about to be executed by a firing squad.

One of my favorite moments in the film contained a hint of romance. Pascal and his balloon walked by a girl holding a blue balloon. The red balloon began to follow the blue balloon. I was worried, due to my knowledge of the conventions of film noir, and buddy movies in general. Women present a threat to strong male relationships. In film noir, the protagonist’s downfall is often the result of his involvement with the femme fatale. Pascal grabbed his balloon, only to be followed by the blue balloon. The blue balloon was grabbed her owner, and the character was never seen again. It was not until the end of the film, I realized how important the love scene was. The interaction between the red balloon and the blue balloon demonstrated that the red balloon was not the only one with feelings, thus setting up the mass balloon migration at the end of the film.

No comments: