Review: A Trip to the Moon (1902)

A Trip to the Moon is a French silent film directed by George Méliés. The film was inspired by Jules Verne’s novels From the Earth to the Moon and Around the Moon. The film follows a group of astronomers who travel to the Moon in a cannon-propelled capsule. Once the group reaches the moon they are confronted by Selenites, the Moon’s inhabitants. The film features a cast of French theatrical performers, led by Méliés as the role of Professor Barbenfouillis. This film introduces the idea of a long feature film with the newly invented Latham Loop and the idea of using a mixture of theatrics and illusions to create a film.

A Trip to the Moon was an international success on its release and was pirated by other studios, especially in the United States. Its unusual length, lavish production, special effects, and the interesting story line has become the foundation for all narrative films. Because of Méliés satire and artistic ability, this film has become one of the most famous films of all time.

When watching the film, audiences can see Méliés use of special effects and theatrics. One of the editing special effect that Méliés used in A Trip to the Moon is the Fade transition. This transition creates a natural feeling of easiness during the film. Méliés uses his Paris magician background in order to effectively mix these editing techniques and theatrics. Méliés believed in using the same painted sets that would be used in a magic show to tell a narrative on screen.

I originally watched the colored version of A Trip to the Moon on Netflix, but it as unfortunately been removed. From the very first scene, I was mystified by the haunting music and the archaic scientists planning their next experiment. Then by the end, I was cheering for the scientists in order for them to return home unscathed. Despite the film being over a hundred years old, it still has the same characteristics a science fiction film would have today. I recommend it to anyone.

For more information on George Méliés, Crash Course has a whole video series on Film History.


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