Short firm at Oundle School inspired by French classic

The film premiere.
The film premiere.
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A teenage Oundle School pupil 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 Johnston (16) 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.

A still from the film

A still from 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 heartwarming 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.”