I do not often expect a movie that deals reverently with faith coming from Europe. The recent Academy Award winner Helium comes as a surprise. Europe is known as a continent of less faith since the devastation of WWII, so to spend 23 minutes surrounded by a vision of hope, albeit concocted for a child, was pure magic.
Death is a theme that I have always associated with the Swedish films of Ingmar Bergman. Having been exposed and fallen under the spell of these films in college, I always found his image of death, standing in the field…waiting for us all, to be intriguing even at the ripe age of twenty. Danish Director Anders Walter turns that image on it’s head with Helium.
I have never lost that wonder about the journey and have mostly travelled with the comfort that my church upbringing has given me. That is not so in most of the homes in Europe and many in America today. I continue to have faith yet search for that reassuring story, belief...that will bring me to that final frontier with hope and yes even faith. Helium gives us a glimpse of how meaningful that faith can be to a dying child.
Helium presents a vision of the transition to an afterlife that gives hope to a young boy in the final stages of a childhood condition while confined to a children’s hospital somewhere in Denmark. The story, told to him by a simple yet profoundly caring janitor, gives the boy a vision and removes fear from what he is about to face. Who would deny this faith to a dying child? If so then at what cost? The problems encountered by all the characters as the boy gets closer and closer to that moment makes the janitor’s need to reach the boy with his special balloon filled parable that much more urgent.
I never associated special effects to be integral part of short films but Helium is tastefully filled with effects that lend themselves to the story. The best short films move us and make meaningful statements in a short space of time.. Twenty three minutes later Helium succeeds! Helium tells us a hopeful story amidst the tragedies of innocent lives. In the end Helium lifts our spirits to dwell in higher realms and renews our hope, both in our fellow humans, and in the promise that we believe awaits us all. We are, after all, children living in faith.
Joseph Saint Martin
(Teaches Life Skills and future Nurse Aides while occasionally writing
from his base on a farm in West Pennsborough.)