George Méliès’ 1902 epic short, La Voyage dans la Lune (A Trip to the Moon), invented the science fiction film, and revolutionized filmmaking.
Méliès’ film centers on a group of astronomers, depicted as wizard-like men with pointed, star-covered hats, who find a way to reach the moon. Using theatre-like sets and performers, Méliès follows the men as they design a giant projectile that will be fired, via cannon, at the Moon. Using forced perspective and various dissolves, Méliès transitions between his scenes perfectly. Wooden facades painted like the interior of a grand lecture hall, or the craggy landscape of the Moon give the film a light, almost comical touch. Effects that are on par with science fiction and monster movies made decades later enhance Méliès’ film, giving it an air of modernity. Some of the effects are simply astounding for a film made in 1902, and, apart from the lack of sound and the quality of the film stock itself, rank with the likes of 1950’s science fiction.
Méliès’ revolutionary approach to his film gave credibility to film as a form of entertainment that could transcend the limitations of theatre. Transporting his audience to the bizarre and whimsical face of the Moon, Méliès adds a joyous lightness to film, not seen until the likes of Chaplain, Keaton or Lloyd in the 1920’s. Mixing a vaudevillian element into the slap-stick interactions between the astronomers, and the the behavior of the Moon-tians (my poor attempt at Martians from the Moon), Méliès creates an enduring masterpiece that is every bit as entertaining 112 years later.