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Le Ballon Rouge à Oundle!
21st November 2017

Oundle School pupil, Ralph Johnston (16) recently completed the production of a short film set in Oundle inspired by the French classic Le Ballon Rouge by Albert Lamorisse.

Having written the script in 2016, and cast Tom Heckels (12) in the leading role, Ralph needed to set about testing the balloon for filming. Tom, who was newly arrived at Oundle, looked similar to Pascal Lamorisse, who played the main boy in the 1956 version, and was very keen to do the film.

Ralph commented, “After some initial filming on two Sundays in September 2016, the shoot (using a Nikon D500 camera) was successfully completed in a few days after I had completed my exams in June 2017 despite the changeable weather. Incredibly, the material shot in September was still usable as Tom had not grown a centimetre in the intervening nine months! I edited the rushes in July using Final Cut Pro, and the film took on a life that was quite different from the film I’d scripted.”

The film is cut to music tracks from great works of the French cinema - Day for Night by François Truffaut, Lift to the Scaffold by Louis Malle, Mouchette by Robert Bresson, as well as the score to Le Ballon Rouge itself. 

Ralph concluded, “The film is meant to be a record of Oundle School at a certain time, showing off the beauty of our school buildings whilst telling a heart-warming story of pure friendship.”

Ralph has made two previous films - a short documentary about the Bramston House Play that was directed by a fellow pupil and entitled ‘Forty Years On’ and a short documentary commissioned by his Housemaster about life in the Third Form in his boarding house (Bramston).

Ralph, who is currently studying A levels in Greek and Latin, and Pre-U’s in English and History hopes to study in the US at both undergraduate and postgraduate level and will be sitting his SAT exams in May.

Ralph’s French teacher, William Gunson commented, The 1956 original, set in Paris, is typically liberating: a young boy has the world enchanted by his friendship with a large, red balloon. Through disappointment and setback, he grows alongside this continuous encounter.  I recall watching the film as a boy, and on discovering one of my French pupils was a budding director, set him the task of reinterpreting it. Ralph’s achievement is top notch. He has done an extraordinarily sensitive job of remaking certain exact scenes from the original film in careful detail, as well as transferring the Parisian plot to the equally timeless setting of Oundle’s market town. However, crucially, Ralph has made it his own masterpiece, by grafting on and adapting that original, liberating, heart-warming, ever-so-slightly-saccharine feeling of Lamorisse’s masterwork, with a cast of Ralph’s Oundelian peers.

It has been a pleasure to help him produce the film over the last year, and to watch Ralph grow through his own encounter with a red balloon. Both Ralph, and this excellent first narrative film of his, are ones to watch.”

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