Balance (1989) Poster


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Winner of the Oscar for Best Animated Short
mctheimer22 March 2000
It's been several years since I saw this, but it sticks in my mind like I saw it recently. This short does one of the best jobs I've ever seen of making a point in minimal screen time.

I won't go into the plot of the moral; part of the joy of this film is figuring it out. When I saw it, you could watch the audience members individually recognize what was happening over the time of the film. It's under 10 minutes long (I believe), and it would be a shame to spoil it for someone.

The film is not something children would enjoy. While there's nothing objectionable about the film, it's not typical colorful, pretty animation. One thing that struck me is that the animation style is very Eastern European, while the plot is rather Asian (group dynamics).

The bottom line is that this is well worth seeing -- and it won't even take that much time out of your schedule!
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First-rate animation short
fordraff3 January 2000
This short film was completely absorbing and finely worked out. It held my attention from the moment it began until the conundrum of an ending, which earned it a round of applause at the 19th Street Theatre in Allentown, PA, where I saw it. The film illustrates the need for humankind to cooperate and shows what happens when one doesn't do so, when he puts his selfish interest above the good of the group, even to sending others to their death. One's selfish pursuit cannot be justified, the film implies, even in the pursuit of art (after all, it was music in the box and the man wanted that music for himself or wanted to explore the interior of the box, i.e., the music, in greater depth). Film has many implications, would repay several viewings and stimulate much discussion.
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A Stunning Work from Germany's Communist Collapse
ShortoftheWeek9 December 2007
A platform floats in a neutral space. Strange men, identical except for the numbers on their back, appearing as though out of some dystopian future, must work in concert to prevent the platform from tipping. The emergence of a strange box, a new development in this closed and sterile space, disrupts the tedium but also the teamwork, as each man wants to individually inspect and enjoy the box—threatening them all as the platform becomes increasingly unbalanced.

Add though a context. A time and place to the film's creation. Germany, 1989. The fact that the men are identical but for their numbers, is this not a oft-used symbol for the anonymity desired of those in a Communist society? That they are all the same and thus interchangeable? The cooperation they display at first is perhaps indicative of Socialism, and the box, what is the meaning of the music it plays, the dancing it inspired? Radio Free Europe used to broadcast American music, such as the jazz heard coming out of the box, into Communist countries throughout the Cold War. Perhaps the box is a symbol of possibility, of what is outside the closed system, which inevitably undermines said system.

And so a parable about selfishness becomes an allegory about German society and Soviet Communism at its fall. The sad and ironic ending of Balance, who is at fault? The men that fail to do what is best for them? Or the system that fails to acknowledge this human quality?

Read the full review at…
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Astounding Short
Duzniak383 August 2006
Balance is a excellent short which revolves around a square board hanging in the air. This board represents the world. On this board are five men, all fishing over the side. There obviously represent the people of the world. These five men must cooperate with each other in order to keep the board balanced so that it doesn't tip. One man then reels up a musical box from the side of the board. This man wants to keep this box all to himself. However if he does this the board will become unbalanced and will effect others. But if this man were to put the musical box in the centre of the board and share it so that everybody could enjoy it together, then peace and calm would still exist on the board. This is obviously referring to people's possessions and resources, and how if one part of the world takes too much power over resources, then other parts of the world will be effected, yet if we shared all resources, all countries would be balanced and we would have no need for concern and worry. The short is simple and creepy, yet this emphasises even more about how the shorts message need to be taken into account and have something done about it, because it's message is simple and the ideas of what could happen if the world went into conflict over resources is an unsettling feeling. The end consequences of the short are amusing, but hint what could happen in reality. This short is very clever and well-made, and has messages and meaning. A short I could view many times and have very good conversation and debate over. A really interesting film to seek out.
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One of the most disturbing shorts I've ever seen. This is excellent!
Robert Reynolds13 December 2001
This short won an Oscar for Animated Short and was most deserving of the honor. This has got to be the most disturbing and thought-provoking animated short I've ever seen in all of my life. I kept thinking about the ending for several days. It reminds me of a three part Chinese curse: 1) May you live in interesting times 2) May people in high places take notice of you and 3) May you get everything you wish for. A sad commentary on human nature. This is in print on The World's Greatest Animation and is worth getting, not just for Balance, but for practically everything on it, as it's all worth seeing and most is outstanding! Most highly recommended.
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A perfect film
Hound-221 February 2000
I second the view of the Canadian commentator, who said this was the greatest animated short every made. It is perfect in a way only Chris Marker's "La Jetee" is--pure and simply, one of the best films ever made. Go out of your way to find it on video--it should be on one of the "International Tournee of Animation" videos or the video pictured above. 6 men. 1 platform. And a strange object.
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Ed Cowell28 January 2002
Sometimes the visuals in our heads can only be realized through animation,because it is not bound by flesh,gravity or reality. BALANCE is twisted and surreal,an interesting look at men who risk falling into nothingness for the chance to hear music. The equivalent of a Kathe Koja story set to film,BALANCE is unforgettable right up to its ironic, haunting final image.
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A masterpiece
homer_simpson9122 November 2001
By far the greatest short I have ever seen. The style of animation in this short is very interesting and a little dark, but appropriate for the story. The moral of the short, the need for cooperation in society and what could happen without it, comes through clearly and is well done. It won the Oscar for Best Short Film in 1990, and it certainly deserved it. Check this out!

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The most profound short that I have ever seen.
Tom Murray24 April 2001
Balance stresses the need for Cooperation in society when, in our present times, Individuality is paramount. In this film, the whole world is a raft in space, containing only four men, who are fishing. They must always work as a team, spreading out around the raft (world), to keep it in balance, or else they will all fall off into the void. To be together, they must all be in the middle, to keep the raft from tipping over. One man pulls up a chest that plays music very quietly. He desires to keep the chest for himself, so he does not move it to the middle of the raft, where all could enjoy it. The desire of all to be close to that chest undermines their teamwork, with dire results. It is fascinating to watch how, in their desire for the chest, they begin to test the limits of their environment, just as man is currently doing with pollution. This film stresses that when you finally do find out what the environmental limits are, the damage is already done: it is too late; disaster will ensue. It should be a requirement that all students study this film in class, every few years--since their understanding of it will grow as they do. This visual impression could have a profound impact on the environmental thinking of future generations, if we allow them to exist. Balance is the best allegory and the best short that I have ever seen. If you like Balance, then I would suggest that you watch Neighbours (1952) by the great Canadian animator Norman McLaren.
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simon-4714 January 2000
Warning: Spoilers
I think I have not seen any German animation except this one. This is one of my favorite short films, and if you have a chance to see it, you will find out how brilliant the Director is.

On a flat (in this world, there is only one small flat and five men on it), the five men had to make a balance not to be slipped. When one man wants to go fishing, the other four men also have to do the same thing. It can be total-socialism or other a physically balanced world. When one man picked up a music box, and all of the five men want to hear the music without order, it became unbalanced. They fought each other and one man won by dropping all the other four men under the flat world. But, the survived winner had to stay at the corner of the flat while the music box stayed at the opposite corner, which means the remaining man could not hear the music anymore because he had to make a balance with that box on the flat.

It's thrill to me to see this short but great movie.

You can buy this with other Oscar nominated or winning short animations by DVD.
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jm199925 March 2000
By far one of the most amazing shorts ever put on film. It may be difficult to find this short, but if you do, it is definitely worth the effort. The concept is pure genius and I guarantee you will never forget the experience.
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Cooperation vs. greed
Warning: Spoilers
"Balance" is a 1989 Academy award winning animated short film by the Lauenstein twins when they were in their 20s. We witness a group of men with numbers on their backs standing on a platform, which is apparently hanging in the air. They all have fishing rods with them and end up with a chest, possibly a treasure. Early on, they cooperate nicely and get closer to finding out about the contents. However, they have to be careful to keep the platform in balance as the chest and one person needs to be on one side and the other fishermen on the other side in order to attain balance.

However, their greed to be the only one to get the treasure becomes bigger and bigger, so one after the other keeps falling / is pushed down from the platform until only one is left. However, his fate now is not only that he cannot get to the chest, but that he basically cannot move or leave his side at all as it would instantly mean the treasure falling down and him right afterward possibly. Decent little final twist, but apart from that a forgettable short film with mediocre animation. Not too surprised to see the Lauensteins did not have a great career in the last 25 years.
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A balancing act
ackstasis13 June 2007
Warning: Spoilers
'Balance,' the Academy Award-winning animated short from German twin brothers Wolfgang and Christoph Lauenstein, is a fascinating film. Five identical men (differentiated only by the numbers written on their backs) stand together on a mysterious unstable platform which balances precariously in space. When one man changes his position, the other four must also do so to maintain the intricate balance that is keeping them all alive. However, when one man recovers a cryptic musical chest from below, each person desires to examine it, their selfish wants eventually destroying the teamwork that is sustaining them.

Running for just seven minutes, 'Balance' is of a perfect length. Despite the entire film taking place in exactly the same setting, with the same thing essentially happening over and over (the platform becoming unbalanced and then balancing again), it is a credit to the filmmakers that the film never becomes dull. The sound effects – of the platform creaking quietly beneath their feet – does a very good job at maintaining the suspense, and, believe it or not, I was actually on the edge of my seat for the entire seven minutes. The animation itself, though perhaps minimalist in style, is perfect for the mood of the film. The five characters are tall, straight and virtually identical, each with gaunt white, Nosferatu-like faces. Despite the deceptively simple style of animation, it is amazing how the characters' faces are able to convey emotion and intelligence; in their bid to outsmart each other and claim the mysterious chest, they are always thinking of more devious means to achieve their ends.

The final image of the film is poignant and haunting, as a single remaining individual (notably #23, the only prime number of the group), stands precariously on the perfectly-balanced platform, the chest unreachable on the far side. Thanks to his own selfishness, #23 now finds himself unable to move even an inch, lest the perfect equilibrium be broken. It is a worrying, and all-too-accurate, allegory for the human condition…
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The best short that I've even seen
Tito-819 January 1999
As a Canadian, I have been fortunate to have many chances to see a large sampling of my country's animated shorts, which are consistently among the best in the world. But this German short film manages to be better than anything ever produced in my country, and that says A LOT. Even though it lasts only a matter of minutes, this short is hugely entertaining and memorable. I've only seen this film once, and it was about seven years ago, but the feeling of how much I immensely enjoyed this short has not dimmed a bit. It deservedly won an Oscar, and I can't urge you strongly enough to take a few minutes to watch this great piece of work should you ever get the opportunity.
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Kirpianuscus27 January 2017
definition of a well known state. men, numbers, a musical box. and the forms of solidarity. or power. this is all. nothing more. nothing less. a political animation , so simple than becomes cold , cruel, maybe ironic.or just a story of Franz Kafka. the message is so powerful than after the second view you discover its beauty. because, certainly, precise verdict. about relations and desire and selfishness and need to possessed, it is a simple story presented with beautiful grace and precision. so strange than it becomes slice of reality. or short history lesson of humanity. long time after its end, remains the images in memory. like a self exam. and this is the explanation for its special value because it reminds more than propose a story.
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Tipping point
Foreverisacastironmess5 September 2015
Warning: Spoilers
I'll be the first to say that I'm not the quickest when it comes to viewing things in a metaphorical kind of way, but this short is something that you simply can't just watch without thinking about something, the simplistic yet fascinating and coldly beautiful visuals are designed to get you contemplating on the possible meaning of it all... So there are these freaky space-fishermen dudes that almost look human but not quite, who are peacefully hanging out and then one of them snags something with his rod that brings chaos to their order, a kind of music box which one of the identical beings is curious about, while another wants to immediately get rid of it, and the rest of them timidly try to mind their own business. They begin to squabble over the box and it gets violent, with them tumbling off their platform into oblivion until only one of them remains to claim his prize, only he is completely unable to ever reach the desired goal because of the simple laws of physics! He can't take a single step. And so, because they were unable to work as a team, everybody loses and nobody gets to hear the music. If only they'd have had the sense to put the damn box in the middle and listened to it together! Sigh, story of our lives, right(?) It's not horrifying, that's way too strong a word for this practically silent animation which is very mild, although there's no arguing that it does have its alarming qualities. Grey is the ideal word to describe it, as the entire exercise does have a very level and neutral kind of a feel to it that is neither high nor low, positive or negative, but something that balances a fine line between the two. I found the sterile visuals and atmosphere strangely calming. I loved the noise of the mysterious floating platform as it tilted, it was hypnotic. And I was also impressed by the carefully conservative motions of the creatures, which were some of the most beautiful stop-motion animation work I've ever seen. I liked how even though for all intents and purposes they were faceless blank puppets, they're movements still conveyed a decent amount of character and body language. It's great but for me it's not quite the life-affirming animated genius that some make it out to be, but it's definitely a very interesting work with some real thought- provoking meaning to it, as well as cleverly living up to its namesake in more ways than one. Don't be greedy, learn to cooperate and work together to get what what you or want or you'll end up with nothing, zilch, zero - NADA!!! Very nice short, it's well worth your time.
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only a musical box
Armand11 September 2014
gray movie, profound message. a kind of puzzle with a lot of possibilities. because it could remember the Shoah, the solidarity under Communism, the force of common sense in dark period. it could be a religious film, in same measure. or key for discover the deep roots of mankind. in fact, it is only the story of a musical box. a box who destroys the balance, who becomes the master of platform, who impose the new reality and the profound solitude. a well made movie who impress for its special message. for the fight of first part. for the hate of the second. for the gray atmosphere. for the numbers. and for the hole who seems sustain the platform.
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Horrifying but interesting
DarvishIchiro13 February 2014
This film has two good points. One is the music, and another is that they use the dolls.

First, it's about music. I remember strange music like a heartbeat is playing at the opening. What does it mean? I think it symbolizes what happens in a short time. The director may wish that those who watch it concentrate on this and get thrilled by it. In addition to this point, the music usually doesn't come to light. This fact helps the film to get somehow strange. Thus, this music is so impressive.

And, I pay attention to the fact that the director uses the dolls. This is so interesting. He can express by an animation or have some people play. There are many expressive ways. Why does he choose this way? My answer is that the dolls can't play the drama because their faces never change. So, we can imagine what they feel without getting influenced by the director's image.

This film is a little horrifying, but you should watch this and think of it deeply. Then, you can find something new for you.
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Everyone Should See Balance at Least Once. But Don't Expect This to Be a Pixar, Happy, All's-well-that-ends-well Treat
sashank_kini-122 August 2012
Warning: Spoilers
If one wants to understand the directors' vision of the short film Balance, he/she would have to possess great knowledge of German history or be prepared to delve into the subject. The leading political parties in those days may have (and I use 'may' because I'm not entirely surely) curtailed the freedom of expression, which including films by censoring direct references or attacks against the government. Unless we have lived in those times or are as curious as Leo Tolstoy about World history, we may not understand many elements in Balance: the numbers on the… (What should I call them?) daunting figures, why these figures looked identical, and what the musical box represented etc, since they are represented symbolically.

But one can grasp a general idea about the film- some say it is about corruptive power, some feel the movie castigates materialism while a few reviewers with good historical knowledge talk about fascism and related topics. After a couple of watches, I observed one small detail that cleared some concepts in my mind- the person who was sitting on the box while the platform kept tilting left and right managed to eliminate most of his companions, and while at first he does this accidentally, by the end his deed is deliberate and cruel.

This made me think of the box as some form of throne or title. Before it arrives, the five work in perfect harmony till the contents of the box are heard by the characters. Then one decides to do away with the box (he possible prefers harmony) and tries to create an imbalance to knock off the foreign object. But he is stopped by another as the rest witness the action, baffled. When one begins to dance to the music playing from within the box, another applies pressure on the platform to bring the box towards him. This causes the performer to sit on the box to prevent falling, while the rest move hurriedly in a state of panic and confusion. The guy on top of the box doesn't push the first guy intentionally and we can make this out by the look on his face. The second person too is kicked accidentally, but when the man had an option to save his last mate, he decided not to.

Now understand this situation using this context: the man on the box or the throne inevitably acquires power. The first few times people close to him suffer unintentionally by him or the power he has (the weight of the box) and he can be exonerated for those crimes. But when the person realizes that the box is the source of dominance, he cuts off any others' reach by killing them intentionally and deviously. No one is left to question him, and he seems to be satisfied in the ending. But he doesn't realize how lonely his position at the top is and how far he is from 'power' in metaphorical terms (he doesn't get the fruits of power).

Everyone should see Balance at least once for the various messages it sends across. But make sure about the kind of film you are in the mood for: this isn't your Pixar, happy, all's-well-that-ends-well treat.
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A thought provoking, surreal, dark and cold art film on our society.
lhnrlmitz3 May 2012
The film is set on a balance board, with 5 human look-alike species living on it, the numbers behind their back is the only way distinguish between them. Each of them in order to not slip off from the board must accommodate with the other 4 to sustain balance. They moved to the end of the board and started fishing, one of them reeled up a box and it changes the "balance". The one who reeled it up wants to keep it for himself but a few curious others wants it too, and there's one of them who wanted just to stay on the board but got suckered into their conflict though they could've just shared it and retain the balance by positioning the chest to the middle. I guess it pretty much reflects on the society.

Too many wealth hogging rich selfish narcissistic assholes around.
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THIS won an Academy award?!
MartinHafer11 February 2008
This film was the recipient of the 1990 Academy award for Best Animated Short Film. Over the last few weeks, I have seen dozens of the nominees and recipients of this award from the last 30 years and I really think that this film might just be the worst of them all--yet it wasn't just a nominee but it won!! I assume that 1989 must have just been a horrible year for the genre.

The film shows a group of characters that look a bit like super-skinny Uncle Festers. The appear to be simple articulated figures who are moved using stop motion animation. All are identical--with the same faces, bodies and clothes. The only difference is that each has a different number drawn on their backs. They are all standing on a large platform that is suspended, as if by magic, in space. Each has a pole and their is also a box on the platform. The platform begins tilting slightly and in response the men move about in an effort to balance the platform. This goes on and on and on and on for the longest time. The only relief from this tedium is when one of them acts rather nasty towards the end, but it just isn't enough to make this fun to watch in the least. Aside from passable stop motion animation, this short offers nothing of interest to me....NOTHING.

By the way, the great short KNICK KNACK also came out in 1989 and I have no idea why it was not among the nominees. It was a GREAT short and was far better than any of the nominees that year or the year before. Perhaps Pixar's success in previous years resulted in a bias against them, but KNICK KNACK is so clever and so funny it seems almost criminal to have ignored it. Could Pixar have not entered it? This seems unlikely.
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I remember this.... (Short Film)
patrick_dunne22 January 2006
Balance is a great short film about a group of men who live on a platform. Each one has to stay on their end, so that the platform doesn't tilt, because if it does...they will fall. One day, a music box comes to them, and each one of them is fascinated by it.

Balance eventually has a moral about teamwork. Of course, the short film is predictable, (If you expected a moral.) but morals are always a nice addition to cinema.

The film may be more complex than I remember, because I don't remember too much. But, the moral about teamwork is nice, and it has a great visual style. Plus, it has no dialog...just like good short films do.

I think I will re-watch it sometime...

Feel free to send me a Private Message regarding this comment.
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