Death is inevitable. It is the normal cycle of nature and of all living things. Everything, everyone lives and dies. And you never know how long we will be here. But, what would you do or tell a dying child, who is way too young, about the afterlife or what we call heaven? Would you tell him as the place where there is God or your departed loved ones are? How will you cater to their innocence or console a child who doesn’t have much time left in this world?
This is what is addressed in Anders Walter’s Danish Short film Helium (2013). It won the Best Live Action Short film in 2014. The 23-minute short film features Enzo (Casper Crump), who is working as a janitor at a children’s hospital. He encounters a 6-year-old boy Alfred who is suffering from a terminal disease. The child is in the last stages of his life. While having a conversation with Enzo, Alfred tells him that although his parents claim he is going to heaven, that place seems dull or imagines it to be a boring place to be in.
However, Enzo wants to paint a beautiful imaginative world of the afterlife in this child’s mind. He notices the balloons hanging from the ceiling and the toys Alfred had in his room and thus decides to make up a story about a place called Helium. He tells the child about what all things are waiting for him once he reaches Helium.
Every day Enzo finds time to narrate the story about Helium, a magical land, to Alfred and he imagines the world while keeping his eyes closed. A loving bond is created between the two. He says that in Helium, houses float in the sky and the air itself is sparkling and when the time comes, the flying balloon will carry him away. There, Alfred will be strong and free to play as much as he wishes and enjoy life with his friends and family who are no longer in this place.
Enzo often pays a visit to Alfred’s hospital room where he continues to tell imaginative stories about the great world. One day he falls really sick and is taken to the intensive care unit where only his family is allowed to visit him. Enzo, however, sneaks into the room as he wanted to tell him the rest of the story and the rest is worth watching.
Helium is a well-crafted and touching short film. It tells about compassion, humanity, hope, love, and above all helping Little Alfred go through one of the toughest phases in life. We can see the delight in his eyes when Helium is described exactly as a place Alfred has in his mind. Enzo keeps a bright red balloon dog beside the window of Alfred’s room, which acts as his ticket aboard the Express or the floating Balloon. Though Enzo could do nothing to save Alfred, he gave him hope and sometimes that is exactly what most people need.
The cinematography, framing, cast, dialogues and even the use of animation brings life to the story and takes the viewers to a world of dilemma.