The Red Balloon, directed by Albert Lamorisse, is a masterpiece exploring how people around an individual causes him or her untold suffering by making sure they deprive him or her of all happiness. As the movie opens up, Pascal, a six or seven years old boy, retrieves a red balloon from a pole and carries this balloon wherever he goes. Unfortunately, after Pascal takes his balloon home, his grandmother throws the balloon out through the window.
However, the balloon does not leave Pascal even after letting go its string and it hovers over his head even in town. In school, the balloon gets Pascal into a problem with the schoolmaster who seeks to punish Pascal. Pascal’s age mates are envious of his red balloon and they try their best to destroy it. Nevertheless, even though these bullies manage to destroy Pascal’s balloon, all balloons in Paris come to rescue him and take him on a ride. Nevertheless, what is the reasoning behind the children’s desire to destroy the boy’s balloon?
The reasoning behind the Balloon’s Destruction
Lamorisse uses the red balloon as a symbol of happiness. When everyone is born, he or she has happiness assigned to him or her (Murray Para. 2). Unfortunately, people who are around taking that happiness away and put suffering in the place of happiness.
Pascal’s age mates are envious because their balloons (happiness) have been taken away and they do not understand why Pascal still possesses his. The environment that surrounds Pascal echoes how society is gloom. Whatever is happening to Pascal has happened to his age mates and this explains why they want to destroy his balloon.
It is unfortunate that in some cases, loved ones take away the happiness assigned to every person. After Pascal finds his balloon and takes it home, his grandmother does not want to see it and she throws it through the window. As aforementioned, all Pascal’s age mates have gone through the same deprivation thus they want Pascal to be like them. Parents, grandparents, friends, and even teachers take away this happiness.
The parents to these children have already taken away their children’s happiness through demands that are too lofty for them to achieve. Pascal’s grandmother follows suit and tries to take away his happiness. Children are expected to do many things that are either unachievable or hard for them to achieve leaving little or no space for hem to be happy and enjoy life.
Running from schoolwork to helping back at home, children have little happiness. Moreover, when they discover their ‘red balloons’ their guardians ‘throw them away through the window’ hence they end up living as zombies. The expectations that parents have on children is sometimes unrealistic. It is true that the world has become competitive, and each parent would want his or child to perform well; however, at times, the pressure is too much to bear at a tender age.
Everyone in society is in the business of taking away children’s happiness. After the red balloon follows Pascal to school, the schoolmaster becomes angry and locks Pascal up until evening. Schools are supposed to be institutions where children learn, enjoy, and discover themselves. Unfortunately, schools have become training grounds where children have to play by the rules and perform excellently.
Consequently, children end up taking subjects that they do not like, but they have to take them anyway because that is what curriculum requires of them. Those who try to go against the set rules, they face the authorities and end up in punishment cells just like Pascal.
As a result, schools rob children of their happiness through punishments and the unending call to abide by rules and regulations with high performance. Formal education has dictated people’s way of thinking for long. It not only dictates to children how to think but also what to think. In the process, their ‘red balloons’ (happiness) become deflated and lost.
On the other side, age mates take away one’s happiness because they have already lost theirs. This becomes evident by the way Pascal’s age mates react. First, they want to steal the red balloon and after failing, they destroy it. They want to steal Pascal’s happiness to keep it for them for they lack it.
However, after realizing that they cannot keep one’s happiness and even if they keep, they would not be happy, they decide to destroy it making him desperate and unhappy as they are. One of Pascal’s friends uses a slingshot to shoot and deflate the balloon. As it comes down, another friend stumps over the balloon and destroys it.
This is what one’s peers would do to a happy friend. They just want to restore parity and ensure that everyone lives by the standards set by society defined by desperation, sadness, and gloom. The way Pascal’s friends behave is a clear indication that they are not happy. If they were happy or rather had their ‘red balloons’, they would enjoy a mutual relationship sharing their happiness. They would even exchange their balloons as they thrive under happiness.
Unfortunately, parents, friends, teachers or society, has taken away their ‘balloons’, hence, they have nothing to share. One cannot give what he or she does not have; however, he or she can take what he or she does not have. This explains precisely why these youngsters are so determined to destroy Pascal’s balloon.
Finally, society robs children of their happiness. As Pascal is about to get into a bus on his way home, the bus conductor tells him that he cannot get into the bus with the balloon. The bus conductor here represents the society; people that are not related in any way to someone; yet, they influence one’s life greatly.
Adults around Pascal are also unhappy with the balloon and this is evidenced by the way they look at it. Probably, these adults had their balloons taken away in their childhood and they do not understand why Pascal would cling to his happiness while they lost theirs. As previously, mentioned, the children in this film have encountered the misfortunes that Pascal is encountering and this explains why they want to destroy his balloon.
Albert Lamorisse, in his masterpiece, The Red Balloon, expounds how people around someone deprive him or her of happiness. Everyone is born with some happiness assigned to him or her; however, as one grows, society takes away this felicity. Unlike his age mates, Pascal has not lost his happiness, which hovers over his head in the form of a red balloon. Unfortunately, the people around Pascal are working tirelessly to ensure that the losses this happiness and become like them.
His grandmother cannot tolerate the red balloon; consequently, she throws it out via the window; Pascal’s schoolmaster punishes him for having the red balloon while the bus conductor cannot allow Pascal to enter the bus as long the red balloon follows him.
Finally, Pascal’s age mates try all they can to rob Pascal of his happiness. First, they attempt to steal the red balloon only to realize that they cannot enjoy someone else’s happiness. Eventually, they manage to destroy this balloon to ensure that Pascal is like them; sad and gloom with no future.
Lamorisse, Albert. “The Red Balloon.” Films Montsouris, 1956.
Murray, Steven. “The Red Balloon…A Significant French Movie.” 2009. Web.