Sunday, September 16, 2012

"The Red Balloon": A Retelling of the Crucifixion

I've made some pretty strong claims on this blog in the past. I mean, I once even had the nerve to say that the movie John Tucker Must Die is better and more feminist friendly than Mean Girls. *Gasp* However, I believe that the claim of this post surpasses even that one.

On the first day of my "Intro to Screenwriting" class, our professor screened the film "Le Ballon Rouge" ("The Red Balloon"), which is a French short film from 1956. I invented my own conspiracy theory about this film based on a comment my professor made when we discussed the film afterwards. You might want to watch the film now so you will be able to understand the rest of this piece and not be spoiled, so I will conveniently place it here for you:

When we discussed the ending in particular, my professor said that the balloons all carried the little boy because they knew he was good in his ways of nurturing The Red Balloon, so carrying him around is how they show their gratitude. As soon as he said "nurturing" I thought about Jesus Christ because Jesus is both a nurturing human being and deity in many ways and believed that the little boy represented Jesus and that the crowd of balloons were representations of angels carrying his soul to Heaven, like the Ascension. But that was where the similarities pretty much rested. This was definitely taking the film to a whole different level entirely and my theories were forming in my mind vaguely, but I still knew that I wanted to think about it further and write about it. However, as I began to think about it more and more throughout this whole week, especially one night when all of these ideas rushed into my mind at once, somewhat keeping me up, I realized that there is even more to the film in regards to Jesus Christ and His death. In fact, it appears to match up very well, and the film is not just about the idea of friendship that we agreed on in class.

The Fact That the Balloon is "Red"
This balloon could have been any color, but for some reason, red was chosen. Throughout the film there are other balloons with minds of their own showcasing all different colors, but the main balloon is red. Why is this? Was it just a random color chosen by the director, or something more?

Well, there could be a Catholic connection to this. Red represents a lot of things that Jesus also represents. Blood is red and Jesus shed a lot of blood when he was crucified. Jesus's sacrifice for us shows us how much he loves us, and love is also often symbolized by red and shades of it. Then there's the idea of royalty. The color red also symbolizes royalty and Jesus just so happens to be often referred to as the "King of Kings".

Acceptance and Rejection
Throughout the film we see various reactions towards The Red Balloon, some positive, some negative. These kind of varied reactions also prove true when people react to Jesus Christ. There are those that regard a balloon following around a little boy a normal occurrence, but yet there are those who react to the balloon with such distaste that they kick it out of the quarters or refuse it entry to begin with, symbolizing how there are people who reject the teaches of Jesus Christ and the good news of God that He tries to spread. There are times when the little boy gets in trouble because of The Red Balloon's presence, so this represents how people who believe in God, and Jesus, who claims to be God, are sometimes cast out and persecuted for their beliefs. Regardless, Jesus never gives up his preaching or who He is and continues to show up, much like what The Red Balloon does throughout the movie, though of course The Red Balloon never exactly "preaches." There is even a time when The Red Balloon rescues the little boy by following the principal of his school to release him from the locked room where he is being punished for The Red Balloon.

The little boy is a loner that travels a lot on foot. This could also resemble Jesus, but Jesus never really was alone much and the kid does use the trolley once. The beginning and middle of the movie consists of The Red Balloon's adventures, which represent Jesus's life and His many experiences and miracles. There also seems to be a high demand for this balloon, for every time someone sees it, he or she tries to grab its string for whatever reason, whether it's because the person wants the balloon or the person wants to get rid of it. This could illustrate how people react to Jesus in two different ways. Some could be reaching for Jesus to feel His warmth while others are reaching for Him to challenge Him and shun Him from the world, finding Him a threat in some way that might overthrow the working system of things, which He does. The people in the movie never seem to want The Red Balloon around as well, which is odd because it is just a balloon and a peaceful character for the most part, much like how Jesus is peaceful, but just like Jesus was and is considered a threat for some, maybe they find The Red Balloon a threat just as well.

Another thing is that the little boy runs into a little girl with her own lifelike balloon. The balloons take to each other, but the little boy wants nothing to do with the little girl and goes on his merry way to do what he has to do. This can somewhat be a connection to Jesus too. From the Catholic understanding (other scholars may tell you differently), Jesus never had a romantic relationship with a woman, but rather just focused on His teachings and healing others. This may or may not explain why the little boy does not place more of a focus on the little girl, for at first you believe that this is where the movie will end, the balloons and the kids coupled off in an adorable little double date set up. 

Then again, this scene could simply just show that the little boy is too young to be interested in girls and prefers his balloon and agendas, but it is an interesting theory.

The Setting
In addition to the somewhat morbid characters we have a very dreary setting and The Red Balloon stands out a lot with its rich color next to the bland grayish town, which is another thing that was brought up in class discussion. If The Red Balloon does indeed represent Jesus Christ, this symbolizes how life on Earth is rather dark, dull, and depressing without Him in it.

The Little Boys
After random moments portraying the relationship between the boy and his balloon, we reach our climatic moment. The little boy goes to an all-boys school and throughout the film these other kids are always fighting each other to get to The Red Balloon. Towards the end there is this extended high-speed chase sequence (believe it or not) where the boys are relentless and will not stop until they finally capture The Red Balloon and destroy it, which is their intention. At first I thought they just wanted it for themselves to play with it, but the story proves that these kids just want to be cruel with unnecessary violence.

There's something that must be said about these pursuers being all boys. There was no such thing as female Roman soldiers in Biblical times, the male ones being the guys that tortured and killed Jesus, so perhaps the choice was made to have the protagonist attend an all-boys school for this reason. The young lads follow suit to this, especially with the unnecessary violence. When they eventually capture the balloon, they don't just pull it down to pop it and be done with it. They make sure they torture it beforehand, throwing rocks and sticks at it as it floats in the air bound to them, for they had tied it down with an additional string. This very much resembles the scourging of the Lord before he is taken to Calvary, when the Roman soldiers tied Jesus up and flogged him, also placing a Crown of Thorns on His head. After much humiliation, much like what Jesus endured before His death, they take The Red Balloon up to a hill, much like Calvary/Golgotha, the hill where Jesus was crucified. As all of this happens, and throughout the movie, it is heartbreaking because the little boy who is trying to retrieve his Red Balloon and protect it from the dangers of his world finds himself alone and outnumbered by the rest of the kids and people in the town, much like how Jesus and His followers felt alone and outnumbered by the Jews, high priests, and Roman soldiers at the time of His death.

The Red Balloon is finally deflated by the kids, probably from a sharp object. Sharp objects, nails, are also used to nail Jesus to the Cross. This is the one scene in the film that has complete silence, with no background noise or music, except for a dog barking in a distance. As the balloon deflates, the camera's focus is only on The Red Balloon getting smaller. Sometimes the death of Jesus Christ on the Cross is portrayed in this same solemn way, giving us a chance to mourn and really reflect. Suddenly, the angelic balloons all react and all travel to the area when The Red Balloon gives its final exaggerated puff, just like the people at Jesus's death react mournfully to knowing then that He was truly the Son of God after He forces out His final words "It is finished." and breathes His last breath. It is when both The Red Balloon and Jesus Christ die that their followers and non-followers believe in them more and more and come to them.

The Ending
When I saw the final scene, I thought the little boy died and that the crowd of balloons were bringing him to Heaven before I even connected him to Jesus, but my professor's "nurture" comment is what then made me compare him to Jesus during the class discussion. But, it was technically the balloon that "died" so this doesn't really make any sense. But it does. I was thinking that perhaps the deflation of the balloon and the carrying off of the little boy served to connect both characters, saying that they are the same being and when one dies, so does the other. The balloon died and gave the little boy a paradise life in Heaven because of his good deeds. The Red Balloon's deflation is the little boy's actual passing OR the little boy was simply The Red Balloon's soul or human form the entire time.

Then after awhile I began to think about the connection this makes to Catholicism and trying to figure out which of the two characters actually represents Jesus Christ, and began to think that this portion of my theory, though at first seeming a little bit far-fetched even for me because I couldn't really find a way to prove it and I thought I was making it up out of nowhere, makes a lot of sense. This is what I finally came up with: Even the Catholic religion teaches that God isn't just one Being. There are three persons in one God, known as The Holy Trinity: The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Perhaps this film is trying to prove this same thing. The balloon and the little boy are the same "person" in a religious sort of way. The little boy is the Father in one aspect because he's the one who trains the the balloon, which is Jesus, the Son, because it undergoes the most humanlike suffering and death and is trained by the "Father," often making mistakes and protecting itself from the dangers of the town because those are human qualities. The Red Balloon is also always by the little boy's side, much like Jesus is always by God's side, never denying his identity as the "Son of God" and preaching His word. Finally, it circles back to the little boy being the Holy Spirit because he is the soul of The Red Balloon that is whisked away to Heaven by the "angels." We could also look back to the first scene of the movie when the little boy "rescues" The Red Balloon, which is tied to the streetlight, depicting how God is always there for Jesus Christ and to rescue us when we are stuck. 

I realized that throughout this piece I kept calling the protagonist "the little boy," not really bothering to get his real name because it doesn't seem that important to the plot to have it matter to mention and I wasn't even sure if he even has one, but I decided to look it up anyway. I just discovered this now, but according to IMDb, the little boy's name is "Pascal," which is actually another word for "Easter" and often associated with it, such as referring to Jesus as the "Pascal Lamb" or "Lamb of God" and Easter as "Pascal Sunday". The lamb is a symbol of Passover, which is what Jesus celebrated with his twelve apostles on Holy Thursday before He gave Himself up for death. Easter is the celebration of when Jesus resurrected from the dead on the third day and is always celebrated on a Sunday, which is today. The little boy, whose name in real life is Pascal Lamorisse, appears to be the son of the director and writer, Albert Lamorisse. Perhaps Lamorisse is a Catholic director that wanted to tell the story of the Crucifixion in this way, maybe using his son as the main protagonist to teach him about it. Perhaps he is so much enthralled by the Crucifixion and Easter that he decided to name his son Pascal in the first place.

I could be wrong about all of this, but the stories are just too similar to ignore. I actually looked for some clues in regards to the resurrecting in three days concept, which is pretty much the most important detail of the Crucifixion, like maybe The Red Balloon's deflation scene and little boy's lift in the sky by the balloons scene is three minutes apart, but I couldn't really find it and don't think that is the case. Then again, Jesus lived on Earth for forty days after His Resurrection before He actually ascended into Heaven, so maybe it is forty seconds apart...

Okay, so maybe not every little detail matches up, but it is very close to it. Hopefully this entire post can help prove my theory. It could just be a cute movie about the values of friendship and hope in a dreary society, but perhaps this film is a commentary about religious intolerance and an allegory about the greatest moment in Christian history, which takes the original idea to a whole other deeper level.

I think I am one of two English majors in my class (I know, right?) and I am definitely in English major mode. 

(I wrote most of this last night and decided to post it today because it is Sunday, for religious reasons lol.)

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