by Madhumati Chowdhury
Increasingly this realization has dawned on me that we have voluntarily taken to being immune to the world around us. We expect a lot, and rightly so, but when none of it is met we look to make the best of what we have instead of trying to rise above the mundane and chart our own course and get what we desire. Yes, it is not always easy and making the best of any situation requires adaptability skills but it makes one complacent in their position and one should live life, not lead a merely passive existence. Quietly, as we mill around and about doing our job, boarding our transport, making small talk and forgetting to have conversations we fall into a rut that’s tough to see through and even more difficult to get out of. Being an “adult” in the terms that the word is defined, being productive, how ever you have taken to defining it, compromising on your dreams, takes a toll. What to do then? How to revive and rename the box of lost causes something that keeps it alive? How to be a resounding “YES” in a world that keeps saying “NO” every step of the way? The answers to all this and more can be found in a short film, and it it’ll only take you 35 minutes; presenting The Red Balloon.
The Red Balloon, or Le Ballon Rouge, is a French fantasy drama made with a lot of heart and love and gorgeous framework and almost no dialogues. The story and the visuals itself speak volumes, much more than words ever could. The background score plays an integral part as well providing for the lack of dialogues such that it doesn’t seem like a lack. It is an absolutely heartwarming film which you’ll keep coming back to whenever reality gets a tad too heavy to deal with. This film is by director Albert Lamorisse, who interestingly is also the mastermind behind the once popular board game Risk. The short film was released in 1956 and won various awards in the same year including an Oscar for best original screenplay and is the only short film to do so, and a Palme d’Or for short films at Cannes.
The film follows a little boy who on his way to school finds a marvelously shiny red balloon stuck to a lamp. Naturally he climbs up the lamppost and claims the balloon for himself and thus begins his adventure. He tries to get on a bus to get to his school but is rudely stopped, it being stated that his extra passenger is forbidden from boarding the transport. He rushes to school, late and panting clutching his new found friend who he discovered to his utter joy is sentient, has a mind of its own and doesn’t like following instructions. His balloon follows him everywhere through the beautiful alleys and roads of Paris as he tries to tame his friend. He grabs hold of the balloon’s string and takes it everywhere, protecting it from the rain by asking strangers for a little shelter under their umbrellas.
They roam around the city making of themselves flâneurs, as everyone stares at the little boy and his balloon floating beside him. The unusual friendship, the gorgeous redness, the willful following of one and the other and the constant companionship leaves everyone wondering after them. The balloon rises and falls gently beside the boy as if breathing and glides along with him enjoying the sights of the world. The boy tells the balloon to wait and it waits floating outside his apartment window until it’s time for them to go strolling around the city again observing the cobblestones, the flaking walls the trains and other balloons.
Obviously as is the rule, every good thing will attract envy and disaster. The balloon and the boy become the source of jealousy for the other boys; they chase him trying to catch his balloon even managing to kidnap it as the boy enjoys baked goods inside a bakery. The boy frantically searches for his balloon and after finding it runs as fast as his feet can carry him, helping his balloon outrun from harm’s hands. This is such a brilliant scene as the only music is the hard steps of the children’s shoes on cobble stone lanes and their war cry and the silent desperation in breathing of both the boy and his balloon until they are caught and his balloon is stoned back to the lifeless existence as is required of it.
Fear not, I won’t end this on a sad note, like I said this film will lift you up and that is what it will do because seeing the little boy’s predicament hundreds of sentient balloons come rising out of the whole city, from houses and windows and balloon selling carts and rooftops, flocking together, to celebrate the boy, to mourn one of their kind, to thank the boy for loving one of them, enough to be with them till the end. And so it happens, that all those balloons take the boy around the city this time they grabbed him, while he floated around. As they do in teams when one player helps win the match and he gets a ride on the team’s back, so does the kid. The smile is infectious, the music heartwarming and the scene, priceless.
The tint of the film moves from deep blue to a warm golden yellow signifying the joyful ending amidst the heartbreak showing that, to quote from Harry Potter, “Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light” You can follow your dreams and people will stare, people who have lost the colour in their lives, but you can get it back, only if you dare to protect what is dear to you, realize what is important to you and be determined to go out and will it into existence. Don’t lose the colour in your life, shine instead and cheesy as it maybe believe in the everyday miracles life unexpectedly hands you, waiting for you to notice.