My pitch for Pixar's next blockbuster: "Balloon Story"
Our adventure opens with a Randy Newman-scored montage of the preparations for a four year old's birthday party. A cloud of colourful party balloons is given pride of place in the living room, floating there bright, proud and splendid. Soon the children arrive in a bustle of excitement, and each is handed a balloon on a string to carry with them.
After presents have been opened and cake has been eaten, it's playtime. The children rowdily chase each other around the room with balloons in hand - the very picture of childish joy and innocent delight! But one child falls on their balloon, bursting it with a shocking bang. The children start to cry. The fun times have ended. The parents take the children to another room to console them. Left quietly alone, the secretly sentient balloons open their eyes and float over hesitantly to investigate the deflated corpse of their fallen comrade. Their first encounter... with mortality.
We cut to two days later. The balloons sit in the corner by the dusty, empty present boxes and loose scraps of wrapping. Long since abandoned by the fickle children, their buoyancy has already started to weaken. Bereft of purpose, the balloons begin to dwell on the nature of their existence. What is this air that surrounds them? Is it the same as the air within them? What god of wind blew life into their rubbery bodies?
Four days later, there is a fateful encounter with their arch nemesis, the family cat. The largest and proudest of the balloons was still fully inflated, a veteran of skirmishes with the beast. But for all his confidence he little realised his skin had grown so very fragile with time. A stray claw brings swift oblivion. In the aftermath the mourning balloons continue to ponder: is the essence of a balloon in the rubbery skin, or the air within? Upon bursting is there nothing left but a empty shell, or do they become one with the very atmosphere from whence they were inflated?
It is now a week later. The few remaining balloons are now small and withered. Their once-taut skin wrinkled, the air inside too thin even to lift them from the ground. The family has set a photo from the birthday party on the wall, children wielding the balloons in their glorious prime. To some of them this a heartening monument to a life well lived, to others only a cruel, mocking reminder of what was lost.
Every balloon deals with the inevitable in its own way. Spotting a discarded pin on the ground, one casts himself upon the spike in a bid to wrestle back some control over his final destiny. Others comfort themselves with the idea that upon finally exiting their earthly vessels, their souls will rejoin the mighty wind and live forever in paradise. Still others find peace through a philosophical acceptance of the nature of existence, and a bittersweet appreciation of the preciousness of each moment and the transitive nature of all things.
Some time later, the parents pick up the balloons and throw them in the bin with the rest of the junk. Radiohead's Exit Music For A Film plays us out as the end credits roll:
Written and directed by Michael Haneke.