Today we take A trip to the Moon!
But we had never been to the Moon before … so let’s be accompanied by Georges Méliès and his film!
In fact, on September 1, 1902, “A Trip to the Moon”, the first science fiction film in history, debuted. And this is why we celebrate this event today.
Who is Georges Méliès
Before telling you all about A trip to the Moon, let’s briefly explain who is the mind behind this masterpiece.
Georges Méliès is the genius who has developed many narrative and technical processes since the beginnings of the film industry.
Born Marie Georges Jean Méliès on 8 December 1861 in Paris and, the young man had chosen as a profession that of the magician. He took advantage of a donation from his father, a shoemaker, to become owner and director in 1888 of the Robert-Houdin theater, inactive since the death of the famous illusionist.
Georges Méliès is considered one of the main creators of the first cinematic effects, including character overprints, fades, enlargements and shrinkages. He was also the first director to use storyboards.
He had the first film studio created in France built on the Montreuil estate. Through his film of him on the Dreyfus affair, he is also considered to be the first director of a political film in the history of cinema.
It is estimated that in seventeen years of activity Georges Méliès has made almost 600 films from 1 to 40 minutes. He focussed on three genres: fairytale and fantasy, science fiction and historical reconstruction. Of this last trend we remember the film Joan of Arc.
After Méliès’s death on 21 January 1938, it should be noted that, according to current legislation on copyright, all his works became public on 1 January 2009, the year following the seventieth anniversary of his death.
We refer you to its official website for more details: Georges Méliès- Site officiel (melies.eu).
A trip to the Moon
A Trip to the Moon (Voyage dans la lune) is a 1902 silent film written, produced, edited, set to music, set and directed by Georges Méliès. Together with the Journey through the Impossible it is one of his most famous films and one of the masterpieces of cinema in its early days.
The film is loosely based on the novels of the two fathers of the science fiction genre: From the Earth to the Moon by Jules Verne and The First Men on the Moon by H. G. Wells. In addition, Jacques Offenbach’s operetta Le Voyage dans la Lune (1875) was also an inspiration.
A trip to the Moon is considered the first science fiction film. One of the opening scenes of the film, the spaceship crashing into the eye of the Moon (which has a human face), entered the collective imagination and is one of the sequences that have made the history of cinema.
Plot and production
Here is the plot of A trip the Moon: a group of astronomers decide to go to the moon thanks to a spacecraft in the shape of a bullet, fired from a cannon. While a group of dancers celebrate the event, the spaceship arrives on the moon. Once disembarked, the travelers meet the Selenites, are captured and presented to their King. The humans manage to escape and leave again by dropping the bullet down.
The film was shot in 1902 in the studios of Méliès’ Star Film near Montreuil, near Paris. It cost the considerable sum of 10,000 francs, spent mainly on the costumes of the Selenites and the rich painted sets.
The film, shot at 16 frames per second, is silent, in black and white (but hand-colored versions were also made). It is composed as a “square film”, that is, as a series of fixed-frame scenes (with backgrounds different and variable duration), strung together to compose a story.
A fixed camera was used for filming and the entire film has no captions.
The shots are often not perfect and cut out some elements on the sides. This is because the Lumière-type camera, which Méliès used, was not yet equipped with a viewfinder. So the shot was often based only on common sense and the experience of the operator.
Why is A trip to the Moon important
A Trip to the Moon was the first film of fiction to have a worldwide success. The film is also the subject of a massive piracy, primarily by Thomas Edison, who personally distributed it in America illegally counter-typing a copy.
It was released in both black and white and color. The only copy of the latter type known to exist is the one donated in 1993 to the Filmoteca de Cataluña by an anonymous person. It was in conditions close to decomposition. However, in 1999 a careful restoration work was undertaken, completed only in 2011 and costing a total of 400,000 euros, at the Technicolor laboratories in Los Angeles. The restored version was first presented at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival.
In addition to the film Hugo Cabret by Martin Scorsese which tells the creation and editing of the film (watch it, it is beautiful), A trip to the Moon was also honored by
Smashing Pumpkins in the video clip “Tonight Tonight”. Take a look at this too, it’s just as beautiful!
Another curiosity: even the video clip of the song Heaven for Everyone by Queen uses clips taken from this film, together with other taken from Journey through the impossible and from L’éclipse du soleil en pleine lune.
Since 1902, the year of making of this film, many works have imagined what would happen more than 60 years later, in 1969: the landing on the Moon.
And many other films about the moon, the moon landing and other space missions have come to us even after 1969, just think of masterpieces like Kubrick’s Space Odyssey, Ron Howard’s Apollo 13 and so on.
But none of these would have come to us if Georges Mélies hadn’t first taken us on A Trip to the Moon.