Exploring ‘A Trip to the Moon’ (1902) by Georges Méliès

In the last few years, an interest in the silent film era awoke inside me. It is, at least to me, so fascinating to read about all those technical advances that led to the art of film. By 1905, the art form film turned into what we know today with the rise of the first full length feature films. Before that, film was no more than an experimental sideshow attraction.

The very first science fiction film in history was Le Voyage dans la Lune/A Trip to the Moon (France, 1902) by French director and magician Georges Méliès. The film itself is around 14 minutes long and was strongly inspired by Jules Verne’s From the Earth to the Moon (1865) and H. G. Wells’ First Men in the Moon (1901).

George_Melies_Big_Head

George Méliès and one of his earliest experiments with film

There is so much I love about this masterpiece. In short, the story revolves around some scientists, which look more like your stereotypical wizard, that built a cannon/ spaceship that shoots them directly to the moon. Actually, the spaceship shoots them directly into the eye of the moon.

Georges-Méliès-Le-Voyage-dans-la-lune-1902

I don’t know why but this makes me laugh so much!

On the moon itself, the scientists have one adventure after another. However, before I reveal too much, why don’t you watch this film yourself? Like many old movies, the copyrights of A Trip to the Moon expired and can be watched or downloaded online legally.

Sure, the special effects of A Trip to the Moon are charming at best and nothing in comparison to today’s sci-fi 3d blockbuster, but Méliès’ masterpiece is everything I love about film. A Trip to the Moon treats film like art and not like a money-making machine, it makes me happy, and was a technical innovation at that time. In other words, go and watch it!

Do you have a favorite period of film-making? Any other early silent film you’d recommend me to see? Leave a comment down below!

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5 thoughts on “Exploring ‘A Trip to the Moon’ (1902) by Georges Méliès

  1. gekitsu says:

    it’s so fascinating to see how much of our modern filmmaking language already exists in these oldest films. when you look at how much of the scenery is in fact painted, it’s kind of impossible not to think of how many memorable vistas in film history were matte paintings, and how our very modern 3d cgi blockbusters do pretty much the same thing: realise most of the scenery via technological trickery.
    many of the compositions can hold their own against their modern counterparts, too. and ‘if in doubt, make things explode’, very obviously predates michael bay. ;D

    i remember a similar ‘oh wow, this stuff is *modern*’ epiphany when i watched eisenstein’s alexander nevsky. it’s a big national war/hero epic, with daringly non-naturalistic backgrounds and almost robot-like teutonic knights. while the main narrative is prince alexander pushing the holy roman empire out of his home, there’s also a side narrative about two brave warriors courting a beautiful girl, trying to outdo each other in bravery on the battlefield to gain her favour. their competition often adds some comic relief to the otherwise often gruesome scenes. btw, in the end, neither of the two is the bravest, but a girl soldier is! legolas, gimli, and eowyn, anyone?

    other favourites that i believed i mentioned more than once before are fritz lang’s die nibelungen (unbelievable! go watch it everyone!) and kurosawa’s seven samurai. (all but die nibelungen aren’t silent films, though.)

    i just have a real soft spot for everything expressionistic film. with all the technological possibilities we have nowadays, we lack their guts to turn away from depicting things realistically, and go for a much more impactful stylisation instead. it just occurred to me that my love for 80s action might be rooted in the same motive: being more real by being surreal.

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    • Maria says:

      OOOh I really need to watch Eisenstein’s work (as well as Vsevolod Pudovkin’s work). It sounds like an amazing film =D Strangely enough, I’ve just spend weeks citing Eisenstein’s and Pudovkin’s scholarly works in my MA thesis haha.
      I totally get what you mean regarding expressionist films. That’s why I’m currently obsessed with early film making (up until the late 1930’s). Nowadays, only during contemporary art exhibitions like the documenta (I’m kinda sad that I won’t be in Kassl or even Germany next yeah for the upcoming documenta) do the masses get to see experimental film.
      I dont think I’ve seen fritz lang’s die nibelungen or kurosawa’s seven samurai, but it is now on my ‘to watch list’ =D

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      • gekitsu says:

        i’m right with you regarding eisenstein – i procured a selection of his work years ago, but only got round to watching alexander nevsky so far, with ivan the terrible and even battleship potemkin still unwatched. self-education foiled again by laziness and getting distracted!

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  2. Night Train Books says:

    Loved this short movie. A personal favourite is The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, if you haven’t seen that one yet, it’s a German expressionist (and at that time horror) movie from 1920. Should be able to find it on Youtube, too!

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