Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

The Red Balloon (1956, Fr.) (aka Le Ballon Rouge)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

The Red Balloon (1956, Fr.) (aka Le Ballon Rouge)

In French writer/director Albert Lamorisse's imaginative, short fantasy drama - a wonderful, mostly-visual children's tale, was about an unlikely friendship between a boy and an inanimate object - a red balloon, that became his soulmate and a symbol of trust, loyalty and love. Everyone in the minimalist film wanted something from the beautiful, intelligent and rare balloon, i.e., to possess it as a playmate or companion, or to treat it as an object to be punished, ostracized, mistreated or tortured.

The balloon was prohibited from entering human habitats, such an apartment, a streetcar, a school, a church, and a bakery, and often had to be rescued or helped to escape. The red balloon only found true love, loyalty and caring from the young boy.

The timeless, allegorical story or parable unexpectedly and ironically won an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay (beating out Fellini's nomination for The Road (aka La Strada (1954, It.), and William Rose's nomination for The Ladykillers (1955, Br.)), even though it was a short film, a French film, and a children's film with almost no dialogue.

  • in the story set in the Ménilmontant, a working-class district of Paris, a young, 6 year-old tow-headed adolescent schoolboy named Pascal (Pascal Lamorisse, the director's son) spied a lamp-post and balcony railing that had the trailing string of a solid red, glossy, helium-filled balloon tangled up in it; he climbed up the lamp-post, untied it and took the balloon with him; he wasn't permitted to take the balloon on the streetcar to school, so he ran to the Boys Community School with the balloon held on a string trailing behind him; when he reached the school, he asked an elderly man on the street to hold the balloon for him until school was dismissed

Pascal Retrieving Red Balloon From Lamppost

Red Balloon Not Allowed on Streetcar

Pascal Running to School With Balloon on A String
  • after school ended during a rainy day, he befriended the balloon by protecting it (but not himself) from the rain under the umbrellas of others walking in his direction
  • when he arrived home - an upstairs apartment, his mother (Renée Marion) prohibited him from having the balloon indoors; the ostracized balloon floated outside the apartment window, until Pascal was able to open the window (without his mother watching) and allow the balloon inside his room for the night
  • the next day, Pascal let the balloon outside, and ordered it to obey him: "Balloon. You must obey me and be good"; as the caring friendship between Pascal and the balloon further developed, it descended to the street level to accompany Pascal to school; however, the balloon took on its own personality when it seemed to playfully misbehave by staying just out of arm's reach from Pascal; it followed after him to the streetcar stop without the need to be pulled by its string

Following Pascal to School Without Use of String

Playing Hide-and-Seek in Doorway

Trailing After Pascal on Streetcar
  • the sentient red balloon played a game of hide-and-seek by concealing itself in doorways along the way (just as Pascal had done moments earlier); at the streetcar stop, Pascal instructed the balloon to trail after him to his school
  • once at school, Pascal's balloon became the center of attention for other children who excitedly reached out and tried to grab for it, but the balloon dodged away and avoided attempts to capture it by other jealous schoolchildren; the balloon faithfully waited in the courtyard for Pascal's dismissal from his classroom; even Pascal's frustrated school teacher tried to grab for it
  • when the harsh school principal arrived, he dragged Pascal away from his class to discipline the boy for bringing the misbehaving, prankish balloon with him to school; Pascal was locked for a detention in his office; the balloon playfully taunted and followed the principal as he walked down the street
  • after Pascal's release at the end of the school day, finally, the two proceeded to walk home together as close companions; in a street marketplace, the balloon paused in front of a mirror to admire itself, imitating Pascal who had also become intrigued by and was studying a life-sized portrait or painted image of a young girl his age that was for sale
Imitative Behavior
The Red Balloon Was Attracted to a Blue Balloon
  • further along on their trip home, they encountered a young girl (Sabine Lamorisse, the director's daughter) who was accompanied by a blue helium-filled balloon; a flirtatious attraction developed between the two balloons and distracted the red balloon until Pascal pulled on its string to guide them further along on their way
  • inevitably, a gang of older bullies in the neighborhood were attracted by the boy with his balloon; they followed after Pascal, surrounded him, and tried to steal his prized friend from him; during their first attempt to take the balloon, the two were able to successfully evade them and return home safely together
  • when Pascal attended church with his mother, the balloon couldn't resist following them inside, where an angry church official kicked them out
  • Pascal visited a bakery shop and instructed his obedient balloon to wait outside; while he was inside the shop, the mean bullies came along and successfully snatched the balloon, took it to a vacant lot, and heartlessly pelted it with rocks and slingshots to torment it, and they tried to pop and deflate the balloon
  • Pascal rescued and protected the balloon, and they were able to run away - they were chased through various Parisian alleyways; once the large gang of boys caught up to them, they recaptured the red balloon and resumed their punishment

Group of Bullies After Snatching the Balloon Away

Boys Using Slingshots and Rocks

Chased By Group of Bullies

Racing Through Parisian Alleyway

Pascal Caught and Surrounded

Deadly Sling-Shot Strike
  • in the film's most heartbreaking and anthropomorphic sequence, and often recognized as a Christ-like sequence of sacrifice and reincarnation (or resurrection), damage to the balloon from a sling-shot rock caused it to slowly deflate and descend to the ground; one of the boys cruelly stomped on the inanimate balloon to effectively kill it; Pascal was devastated by the loss of his friend-companion that was now torn and unrecognizable
  • in the very sweet, uplifting, transcendent, enchanting and magical surprise ending, thousands of other colored balloons from around Paris empathically rebelled and broke away from their owners and rose up into the sky; the large collection of balloons had rallied together and converged to where Pascal was sitting with his dead balloon
Balloons Being Released Throughout the City
  • Pascal reached up and tied all of their strings together, and then held on as the massive group of vibrantly, multi-colored balloons lifted him up from the ground and carried him off on a ride over the entire Parisian cityscape and on to another world, high above the fray
Pascal Carried Off Over the City of Paris

Young Schoolboy Pascal (Pascal Lamorisse)

Protecting the Balloon From the Rain Under People's Umbrellas

Prohibited Balloon Floating Outside Pascal's Apartment Window Before Being Taken Inside

At School, Other Children Tried to Grab Pascal's Balloon

The Balloon in School's Courtyard Outside Pascal's Classroom - The Teacher Tried to Grab It

The School's Principal Dragging Pascal Away to Be Disciplined

The Balloon Taunting the Principal on the Street

Young Bullies on Street Following Pascal With His Balloon and Surrounding Him

Balloon Following Pascal and Mother Into a Church

Pascal and Balloon Outside a Bakery Shop

The Deflating Red Balloon

The Balloon Stomped On and Killed

Pascal Sitting With His Dead Balloon

Pascal Tying the Strings of All the Balloons Together


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