The Red Balloon (1956) Analysis – A Whimsical Reality


The Red Balloon (Originally Titled “Le ballon rouge“) is that reality which dwells in a transcendental realm. It is as magical as it is real. At times none of it seems plausible, it feels like a fairy tail and sometimes like a ghastly reality.

The film disguises itself, puts on a veil, as if it wants to go unnoticed. It will never spoon feed you, it never preaches , it will never ever tell you on which turns one has to be cautious. It surprises you and con-volutes your understanding of what you have perceived is true or is just a figment of imagination. But what does truth mean? I am sincerely apologetic for not knowing the meaning of this word that is always defined with some preconceived notion. What if the foundation of those notions were fabricated. Truth is evident yet relative. There is an absence of a universality. That relativity is where all the “magic” happens. We sit on the fence, wear our mundane eye glasses and overlook the whimsical reality, present right in front of us. Our entire energy is spent in domesticating the untamed. We are scared to look beyond. We are scared to traverse the uninhabited land. We are scared to be at juxtaposition with the surrealistic idea that encompasses life.

The Boy and His Companion

The Red Balloon is written, directed and produced by Albert Lamorisse. He cast his son, Pascal Lamorisse, as the protagonist.

Pascal, finds an abandoned red coloured balloon, while on his way to school. The balloon is stuck to a lamp-post as if waiting to be rescued. The surreal world of Albert Lamorisse fills life inside the non living entity. It seems as if the balloon is like a living companion to the starry eyed boy. When the boy goes home, he is forced by his mother to throw the balloon outside the window. But little does she realize that the balloon stays outside the window, waiting for the boy to claim him once again. The kids in the school become highly envious of this silent companion and try to sabotage the companionship by stealing the balloon. The chase leads to a climax that can very well find it’s thematic vein in the Christian mythology, in spirituality and in age old ideologies.

The Charmer

I have always considered “Childhood” as being the biggest charmer of our lives. It sweet talked us into thinking that we were meant for great things. It made us think that we are the conquerors and the magicians. The world was our stage and we were the beaming performers. We didn’t care about an audience. We didn’t care about the spotlight, we didn’t care about the props, all we had was a belief, etched deep down so much so that we never doubted our processes.

The boy had an un-tampered innocence form which originated a kind of belief. When he said to the balloon that it has to listen to him and stay outside the church while he went inside for the service with his mother, he believed that the balloon is capable of understanding his human talks. He treasures the companionship, values it, maybe because that is the only way to curb his loneliness.

A Post-Destruction Era

It is a 1956 French drama that showcases a Paris that we do not know of. It is not the dazzling city of Eiffel Tower that we are used to seeing on screen. It’s a city where there seems no joy. The mise en scène is dull and devoid of any exultation. It is done on purpose to let the apostle of hope, the red balloon, attract more attention. Maybe it’s the only good thing happening in a city that seems distressed in general.

Together the boy and his shining beacon of hope, embarks on a journey of self realization. In a scene where they both enter a roadside market, the boy looks at the painting of a girl staring blankly in the void. The balloon at the same time looks at itself through the mirror. It seems like they find themselves. They find a purpose. They recognize the answer to their existence. The balloon takes the position of an equal, an individual, rather than being just a loved pet.

“You can kill a man but not the idea” – Sophocles

Sometimes it is the innate philosophy of a being, to derive pleasure by being sadistic. It is bound to happen especially when there is so much hate around. You are bound to reflect the same mindset that is being propagated by the social and political climate existing around you.

The red balloon takes a spiritual angle by ending things on a quaint and satisfying note.

The trend seems to repeat itself. We experience the same ordeals time and again. History has a  habit of repeating itself. But we can take solace in the mere fact that hope finds a way to illuminate even a night that seems too long and frightful. It might take some time, it might take some sacrifices. Hate can kill the physical being but not the ideologies. And then we look back at the past horrors and laugh at the naivety of the human race.

The Red Balloon is definitely not just a fantasy drama meant for children. It evolves with every time you watch it. It is a realistic occult, provided you have an eye for contemplation.

The Short Film is streaming on MX Player.

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Sushrut Gopesh
Sushrut Gopesh
I came to Mumbai to bring characters to life. I like to dwell in the cinematic world and ponder over philosophical thoughts. I believe in the kind of cinema that not necessarily makes you laugh or cry but moves something inside you.

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