Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A Trip to the Moon

Le Voyage dans la lune; silent science-fiction short; France, 1902; D: Georges Méliès, S: Georges Méliès, Victor André, Bleuette Bernon
A couple of astronomers enter a space capsule which is catapulted from a cannon into the Moon. Once there, the astronomers enjoy watching Earth and sleep over the night. The next day, they encounter humanoid, crab like Moon people who arrest them. Fleeing back to their capsule, the astronomers return safely back to Earth, where the people celebrate them.

One of the most famous movies from the early days of cinema, Georges Melies' "A Trip to the Moon" is today more a curiosity taught at film classes than a genuinely well crafted achievement, still tagging along a decade before the first real great achievements of the 7th art form will appear with Griffith and Soviet cinema, who both advanced it by using a more dynamic editing as a useful tool. Just like most of films of the early 20th century, when cinema was still in children's shoes, "Moon" is a static story, a 13 minute film composed of only 16 takes in total, all filmed in wide shots, without any close-ups even when they were required (such as the clumsy first scene where the main astronomer is holding a lecture and draws the trip from Earth to the Moon on the blackboard, which is inconveniently placed at the far left side of the screen and barely seen) since back then directors and cinematographers still had no idea how to shape the new art form. However, Melies was one of the first directors who massively experimented with the medium, for the first time showing that it can be used—in rudimentary form— to tell a story, thereby outgrowing the previously standard documentary norms by showing the Moon landing and unusual landscapes on it (underground mushrooms and alien "Moon people"), which is why some consider this the first science-fiction film. By daringly showing an unusual story, thinking "outside the box", Melies proved hugely influential and shyly paved the way for future imaginative mise-en-scene, and Bertolini's "Inferno" and Wiene's "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari" took it from there.


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