Le Voyage dans la Lune (A Trip to the Moon)

Year: 1903

Production: Star

Director: Georges Melies

Starring: Georges Melies, Victor Andre, Bleuette Bernon, Depierre, Farjaux

21 minutes; B/W

The world's first sf film epic, and the masterpiece of all cinema up to this point in time. Its epic length alone, 21 minutes in a day when films lasted little more than one or two minutes, would qualify it as a masterwork, even without consideration of its stunning content. Melies, already acknowledged as the master manufacturer of "trick films" and fantasies, indeed the creator of the whole genre, brough all his long experience as a stage magician and entertainer to fruition in this film, and although he equalled it in several later productions, he never surpassed it, or again produced a film which had so much impact on contemporary audiences.

For his plot he took inspiration from the two literary masters of sf, Jules Verne and his 1865 book, De la Terre a la Lune (From the Earth to the Moon), and H.G. Wells with his First Men in the Moon, published in 1901. Thus Wells' creation of the Selenites, crustaceous inhabitants of the Moon, was brand new when Melies designed the costumes for his creatures. Verne supplied the concept of the great space gun, which more than 30 years later was used by Wells for his own journey into space, Things to Come (1936). Not content with scripting, designing, and constructing this epic, Melies also played the leading role of Professor Barbenfouillis, whose great plan for the exploration of the Moon is accepted by the Scientific Congress of the Astronomic Club. First the master gun has to be cast at a vast foundry. Then the astronauts enter the space shell. The huge cannon is fired and the shell flies through space, landing right in the eye of the Man in the Moon. The explorers emerge and observe the appearance of the Earth from the Moon. A snowstorm starts, and the explorers descend into a crater for shelter, and thence into the interior of the Moon. In a grotto of giant mushrooms they are captured by the curious inhabitants, the Selenites, who take them before their King. The Earthmen manage escape, and discover that when the pursuing Selenites are struck, they explode in puff of smoke! The party find their shell again, and return to Earth, falling through the sky and splashing into the sea. After viewing the wonders of oceanic life, the explorers are rescued by a ship and returned to Paris. The city in en fete, and after a grand march past of marines and the French fire brigade, the heroes are decorated and a commemorative statue is unveiled by the Mayor.

The American producer pirated this film under the title A Trip to Mars.

The Overlook Film Encyclopedia - Science Fiction

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