Voyage to the Moon
George Méliès, Voyage to the Moon (1902), is a film that has loosely taken its influence from two novels: Jules Verne's ‘From the Earth to the Moon’ (1865) and H. G. Wells' ‘The First Men in the Moon’ (1901). Méliès use of facial expressions and character motions vastly helps to portray the sci-fi setting of the film, in a landscape that was still very much a fantasy world at the time of filming.
The story of ‘Voyage to the Moon’’ follows the adventure of a group of scientists, members of France’s Institute of Incoherent Astronomy. The scientists wishing to travel to the moon decide to commission a project that sees the construction of one cannon massive in size and proportions. The idea behind the cannon is to have the scientists inside of a hollow shell, which will then be loaded into the cannon and launched towards the moon at great speed. The launch being successful, the Scientists arrive on the Moon are confronted by its goblin looking inhabitants. After a short battle, the Scientists end up held captive by the Goblins, but later escape back to their shell, which ends up tipping over a cliff and falling back down to earth, landing in the ocean. Eventually the heroes are towed to shore by a steamship and celebrated with a parade.
‘Like all great films, A Trip to the Moon knows what it’s trying to do and supports itself ably. Méliès’ tableaus squash a double-load of detail into every scene, losing nothing. (Edwards, 2009)
Méliès dramatic set design and choice not to move his camera all help to build up a dramatic atmosphere. His studio had enough pulleys, wires, and trapdoors helped to support his choice to leave his camera stationary. He chose to dress all of his characters in very weird elaborate costumes and directed them in such a way that it helps bring the sets to life, almost as if the actors are the set themselves. All of this helps the fact that Méliès worked to very a short run time for the movie.
Standing out is the sequence where Méliès borrows from his magician roots and turns the moon creatures into poofs of smoke. Besides creating the first science fiction fantasy on film, Méliès pioneers basic concepts of editing to visually communicate his narrative. (Nesbit, 2006)
The above image (fig2) is a very good example of set design, the portrayal of the moon in the night sky and the cannon. It is a classic example of a fantasy setting portraying an alien landscape no one has been to before, due to the lack of space exploration and scientific understanding of other worlds. However, advances in technology happening around the time of film in 1902 such as the Wright brothers attempting to take to the skies with the first airplane would have been a very big influence to the setting of the movie.
‘When filmmakers like Martin Scorsese are queuing up to pay homage to you, you’ve probably earned your place in cinema lore. So it is with Frenchman Georges Méliès’ (Phil De Semlyen, 2011)
The above image (fig3) is the most recognisable image from the film, having had many directors paying homage to it many times over the years. It is arguably the most memorable scene from the movie as it leaves the viewer in a sense of shock and awe.
There have been many references to ‘Voyage to the Moon’ but some of the more recent notable ones include, Brian Selznick's 2007 novel ‘The Invention of Hugo Cabret’ whose story revolves around Méliès’s, features a description of the man in the Moon impaling scene. Martin Scorsese's film adaptation of ‘Hugo’ also features this scene and includes various other scenes from the movie too.
Futarama’s episode ‘The Series Has Landed’ (Season 1, Episode 2) (1999) featured the character Bender also stabbing a moon headed man in the eye with a bear bottle.
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Chris Edwards (2009) - http://silent-volume.blogspot.co.uk/2009/02/trip-to-moon-1902.html
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John Nesbit (2006) - http://oldschoolreviews.com/rev_20/trip_moon.htm
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Phil De Semlyen (2011) - http://www.empireonline.com/features/become-a-genre-expert-silent-movies/p1
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