Written and Directed by Albert Lamorisse
Starring Pascal Lamorisse
Available on Netflix and HuluPlus
The Red Balloon begins with a sweet, serene shot, as a young child enters the frame. We are in Paris, mysterious Paris and from that first shot it is clear this is not the Paris of gangsters and prostitutes. This is the Paris that people fall in love with. Romantic, simple, and mystifying–filled with bakeries, cafes, and colorful umbrellas.
The child is a symbol of Innocence living in the post-War hardships of France. He is small, delicate, and full of joy, despite the troubles around him. He finds a red balloon, and it becomes his escape–the only friend he can go to in troubled times. Only during school and sleep does he ever let the balloon out of his sight. His happiness is tied to the inflated ball of air.
If the boy is Innocence, then the ballon is Hope. At the end of the film, a pack of neighborhood bullies destroy the red balloon. Immediately all the balloons in Paris come to the scene and carry the boy away into the sky. Kill something beautiful, especially Hope, and more will spring up from every corner of the earth.
There are maybe five lines of dialogue in the entire half-hour run time of the film. It uses instead the power of simple images, specifically color and texture. The red balloon itself is an exercise in color that is worthy of remembrance. It stands out magnificently against the rough, brown crumbling walls of the city. It is a beautiful film, and its message is in its beauty.