A Trip to the Moon (Le Voyage Dans la Lune)
Given the fact that I’ve: 1- Decided to do this Winter Shorts series, and 2) I started this week with Hugo, today’s movie is essentially a given, it’s Georges Méliès seminal sci-fi adventure, A Trip to the Moon or, in the original French, Le Voyage Dans la Lune.
The film was originally released in 1902, and as can be expected, there are many different edits and editions of the film floating around. I watched the most recent, the 2011 re-release that includes some very important restorations. This version includes both the film’s final scene, which was long thought to be lost, and a Technicolor restoration of the original hand-tinted color print. Additionally it restores the film’s original runtime, (some versions play the footage, originally shot at 14 frames-per-second, at a faster rate.) Finally it includes new soundtrack provided by the French band Air. I wasn’t completely sold on the soundtrack, but one can hardly hold that against Méliès, so I’ll largely be ignoring it for the purposes of this review.
One thing that occurred to me as I watched the film, is that I’d actually seen almost all of it before. Between Hugo, and the final episode of the HBO series From the Earth to the Moon, there wasn’t much of the fifteen-minute film that was completely new to me. However seeing it all together it really is a remarkable piece of filmmaking.
The film consists of a series of brief but elaborately staged scenes that portray a fanciful sci-fi story about a group of astronomers who travel to the moon by means of a space capsule fired from a massive cannon. Méliès himself stars as Professor Barbenfouillis, the astronomer who proposes and later leads the journey. On the moon they have a brief adventure during which they fight with and are briefly captured by a hostile alien race living on the moon. They escape and push the capsule off a cliff, allowing them to fall back to the Earth, bringing one of the aliens along with them.
While the story certainly leaves much to be desired, the special effects really are impressive. This is really a visually impressive film. The sets and props are a magnificent, while the hand colorization is really beautiful in its own way.
Judged strictly for what’s on the screen, A Trip to the Moon, is undoubtedly worth seeing. However, as a historic film this one’s hard to underrate. It’s a science fiction movie made when movies themselves were practically the stuff of science fiction. It’s a movie that was important enough that its production provided the basis for an Oscar-winning film a century later. Given all that, and given the fact that it’s only 15 minutes long, I don’t feel like I’m taking up much of your time when I conclude that A Trip to the Moon is a Must See.