I was leading a training day with a group of curates yesterday exploring links between film and theology. It was a good day and the folk engaged well with the subject. In one of the sessions we were looking at the use of metaphor and seeing how films deployed this device. In the session we watched The Red Balloon - a celebrated film from 1956. It's the only short film (34 minutes) to have won an oscar. The film has very little dialogue as the visual images tell the story.
The film is set against the monochromatic dullness of post-war Paris. An eight year old boy finds a bright red balloon tethered to a lamp-post on his way to school one morning and he unties it. It is as though the balloon becomes his best friend and they go everywhere together. This causes difficulties at school and at home but both are eventually overcome. It is clear that the balloon befriends the boy and is very playful in the way in which they interact.
The balloon becomes an object of envy for the other boys in his neighbourhood and eventually they capture it. They attack the balloon with stones and catapults and eventaully it springs a leak and falls limp and shrivelled to the ground where one of the boys stamps on what's left and it pops.
The balloons 'owner' is understandably downcast. Shots from all over Paris then show balloons escaping from thier confinement and travelling for a rendez-vous with the boy. He gathers the strings from all of these balloons and they carry him up and away with the city spread out below him. End of film.
At the end of the film, reactions ranged from tears to complete boredom - although most did appreciate the opportunity to see it asnd for some it enabled them to reconnect to a former life! We discussed the metaphors that the story could be representing with lots of good ideas being offered. When I said that some have seen this a s a 'Christ movie' (the balloon could be seen as Jesus) there was widespread support for this view and the discussion went to some interesting places.
I would recommend this film. You can simply watch it and enjoy the story or you can begin digging deeper. I'll give it 7/10.