A Trip to the Moon: Where It All Begins

The next movie we're watching is A Trip to the Moon (or Le Voyage dans la lune, if you're of the French persuasion), a 1902 science fiction film by Georges Melies.  This is the oldest movie on our list by far, and it's sort of Point A in film history.  The old girl scores #465 on our list.

A bunch of astronomers who look like they belong at Hogwarts are having a meeting, when the president (apparently there is a governing body of astronomers) presents his cockamamie scheme to fly to the moon.  There is some polite dissent.

Five wizards astronomers agree to go with him.  They're going to be put into a giant bullet and shot out of a cannon towards the moon.  I'm not a scientist, but...well, I just don't see this working.  Apparently the astronomers know better than I, as they land quite safely on the moon.  They're tired, so they go to sleep, only to be awoken by a terrible snowstorm. (???)  They decide to climb into a nearby crater, where they are ambushed by Selonites (moon dwellers), who have a strange weakness: being struck with umbrellas makes them explode into a puff of smoke.  Still, the astronomers are outnumbered by the Selonites, and are captured.  Upon arrival at the palace for judgement, they blow up the Selonite king.  So much for peaceful relations.

Wait...the shell had to be shot from a cannon to make it all the way to the moon, but now all it has to do is fall off a cliff and it will fly to Earth?  And the president survives by hanging on to a rope suspended from the shell?

I don't know...I'm beginning to think that this movie is employing questionable logic.

Random Musings:

  • Why is the vessel being pushed into the cannon by a line of chorus girls?  I guess even in 1902 filmmakers could help but pander to the lowest common denominator.

  • I love the shot of the Man in the Moon all pissed off because the ship hit him in the eye.  Genius.

  • I also love how the astronomers are treating this expedition pretty much like a mildly interesting camping trip.  They land on the moon...and then they just pull out some sleeping bags and look up at the stars.  I feel like getting shot out of a cannon and landing on the moon is kind of a big deal...apparently the astronomers are being all cool and casual about it to impress the ladies.

A Trip to the Moon is obviously a crude piece of very early filmmaking, more notable for showing the possibilities of the medium than anything else.  Georges Melies was a magician prior to his experiments in film, and as such he is more interested in special effects and the more technical aspects.  His storytelling techniques are incredibly rudimentary (it's essentially one stationary camera filming a stage), but the spectacle produced by his film and his contributions to the development of cinematography are great indeed.  Melies showed people what film was capable of.

In a lot of ways, I think it's fair to say that while DW Griffith was an innovator in storytelling on film, Melies is the one who brought magic to cinema.  Without him pushing the envelope on the technical sode of film with special effects, the full potential of the medium might not have been fully realized.

Thanks for reading, and pop back around next time!

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Llamastrangler said...

This film just makes me smile. I just love the cheerful total rejection of any sort of realism!

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