I know that with this post I may have gone way back in history of film, but I happened to see “Le voyage dans la lune” for the third time these days and I liked that film too much to not talk about it.
To refresh your minds a little bit, this is a 1902 French Black and White silent film based on two popular novels; Jules Verne’s “From the Earth to the Moon” and H. G. Wells’ “The first man in the moon” and it is made by Georges Méliés.
The film is about a group of astronomers who decide to go on an expedition to the moon. Once there, they encounter some sort of way of life going on, and they also witness surreal things happening as: human faces coming out of stars, Saturn leaning out of a window in his ringed planet, the goddess of the moon appears seating in a crescent-moon swing, a snowfall happens and so on. At the end of the film they return safe to planet earth and land into the ocean.
First of all, I want to say that the whole science fiction concept in this film is not only constructed by the fact that traveling to the moon in 1902 was impossible, but the surrealism and the special effects used create a whole fantastic world, and this is amazing.
The design of the sets and the beautiful costumes gave me a very theatrical feeling, not to mention expressions of the actors which are very exaggerated and fun.
The whole film happens in several shots placed with different scenes and stages, but all of them are wide shots and with a front point of view. Maybe Georges Méliés didn’t know other shot techniques, or maybe having only wide shots was a deliberated decision, but I have the feeling of wanting to see things closer in order to get more information and details about people’s faces expressions and textures. I wish he have done middle shots and close ups.
I also really liked how in one scene an astronomer kills a Selenite (a moon habitant) by hitting it with a hard force, then the creature exploded and immediately a lot of smoke appears in scene. I assume that for doing this special effect Méliés cut one frame of the man hitting the Selenite and jump to another where the smokes comes in without the creature. I wonder if this scene inspired the creators of Mario Bros game, where in order to kill the enemies, Mario has to squash them. At least, this is what I thought about.
Other scene worth to mention is the very well known part where the bullet formed spaceship lands into the moon, which has a human face and it smiles. This scene is just beautiful, and it probably uses the same cutting effect that the one of the killing of the Selenite, because in one frame you can see the complete moon face and in the next frame the moon has the bullet in it’s eye.
There is also a hand colored version of this film that is really beautiful, it adds more to the fantasy. Even though the hand coloring is not perfect, it is very nicely done.