All creativity begins with the moment of conception.
That little piece of kindling that gets the fire going. That initial source of inspiration that takes on a life of its own. That single note from which the entire symphony grows. That single spark of life that signals an idea’s movement value, almost screaming to us, something wants to be built here.
And so, in this blog series, I’m going to be deconstructing my favorite moments of conception from popular movies. Each post will contain a video clip from a different film, along with a series of lessons we can learn from the characters.
Today's clip comes from the arcade scene in Le Balloon Rouge:
What can we learn?
Be there before the lightning arrives. Pascal’s balloon is the perfect emblem of inspiration. It has a mind and will of its own. It’s colorful and unpredictable and sprightly and graceful. Sometimes it follows the boy wherever he goes, sometimes the boy follows it wherever it floats. But he stays with it. And that’s the lesson. Because inspiration is the fundamental human survival mechanism. It’s the only way we can cut loose from the dead hand of the past, ratchet up our species and let the best have a real chance at us. But inspiration can be fickle like a balloon in the wind. The moment we try to catch it, we miss it. Because any over determined action produces its exact opposite. On the other hand, if we’re always with it, moving at its speed, as much a part of it as its own shadow, then it becomes easier to seize. Wherever it goes, we go. And so, our job as creators is to stay with it. To never to allow ourselves to rely on inspiration alone. To build a routine and ride it. To be there before the lightning arrives. And to approach out work with the right lens, posture and filter, that way inspiration can seek us out. Sure beats chasing inspiration around town, waiting for it to settle. Are you placing yourself at the mercy of inspiration or teaming up with it?
Where my dreams begin to turn outward. This movie won tons of awards and received overwhelming praise from the critics. Not just for it simplicity and humor and color symbolism, but for its poignant message about dreams and the cruelty of those who puncture them. Pascal’s dream is the balloon. It’s the one thing he longs and aches for. So strong is his devotion, that there is nothing that is not part of it. But his dream draws inquisitive looks from adults and becomes the envy of the other children. At one point in the film, we see it floating outside his bedroom window, but his mother will not allow it in their apartment. And by the end, the balloon is actually hunted down and killed by slingshots by a mob of cruel boys on a barren hilltop. If that’s not a metaphor for dreaming, I don’t know what is. Because just like the boy, we become devastated when things pop. When our one and only dream in the world gets punctured and deflated by those who feel disenfranchised by its power, it makes us want to drop down to the dirt and cry our eyes out. But that’s precisely when the magic happens. That’s when we look into the sky and watch as all the other balloons come to our aid and take us on a ride over the city. Dreams are like that. Once we commit to them, the world reverberates with the sound of our purpose. Where will your dream carry you?
Dreaming isn’t dead. I hated this movie when I was a kid. Our elementary school teachers played it for us every single year. And it always took me on an emotional roller coaster. First, I was frustrated that the balloon was just barely out of the boy’s reach. Then, I was angered when the bullies tried to pop it. Next, I was sad when the balloon eventually popped. Then, then I was inspired when the other balloons formed a colorful cloud around the boy. And then I was jealous when they carried him over the city. But I’m sure that’s exactly what the director had in mind. Delightful manipulation. Rewatching this movie as an adult, however, is a different story. Because now I understand it. Now I appreciate watching the boy’s imagination literally taking flight, floating him off into a feeling of escape and peace. Perhaps the was also the director’s intent. To remind us that there’s nothing wrong with trading in our smallest dreams for better, bigger, more colorful and more voluptuous ones. If you dreamed in terms of your potential and not your limitations, how would that change the dream?
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