Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Film Review: Le Voyage Dans La Lune

A Trip to the Moon (1902) 16min

(Figure 2: Opening Title)

'A Trip to the Moon' is a French silent film directed and written by Georges Méliès (1902), which evolves a mad Professor named Barbenfouillis (acted out by Méliès himself) and his students wanting to travel through space and land on the Moon. We instantly get the sense of hyper-activity from the vast amount of rushed movements by the students that could be seen as a sense of humor that Méliès could have tried to indicate.

Seen in Figure 2, at the launch event, Georges has tried to show distance from the huge length of he cannon, gradually getting thinner and thinner indicating how very far away from the camera it is. This can also be shown by the size of the moon from any realistic point of scale. If the film had been in colour, I imagined the rocket to have been constructed out of brass, like the shade of a dark mahogany, with large golden screws holding everything in place. 

(Figure 2: Cannon launch)

The very famous scene where the Astronomers arrive closer to the Moons surface, you realize the Moon has a sense of personality and emotion. The placid, non-amused face when the rocket appears to have lodged itself within one of its eyes shows great character and mystery. Which can also leave a question to the viewers to why did Méliès want that specific expression, or let alone having an actors face present at all?   

(Figure 3: The Face of the Moon)

After arriving safely, the Astonomers are bewildered by the many mountains and rock faces they are now submerged by. Huge craters and vast spikes protruding the moons surface seems now as something far from reality, but the creativity that the many concept artists must have had here is clearly visible. The astronomers take a moment to look upon Earth and Saturn, amongst the vast array of stars, however to any 21st century viewer, a person on the moon would never see a rise or set of Earth. So when the Astronomers go to rest, Earth is shown to have set, distinguishing night time; where the clouds cover the night sky and show shimmer of light along the skyline, indicating a light source. 

Another of Méliès best-known films, 'The Impossible Voyage' (1904) involves the same strange, surrealistic artwork created to form, in that era, a sense of realism. At the scene where the Astronomers venture down into a cave beneath the Moons crust, they discover large, toppling Mushrooms. The concept artists have picked up very well how to show depth and scale even back in the 1900's. Quota; ''There they find a bizarre, magical landscape...'' (aclassicmovieblog.com). To any viewer, the set can lead the eye and allow every person to create their own depiction of hidden features Méliès might have laid out for us.

(Figure 4: A Trip to the Moon Poster)

Nearing the end of the film, the astronomers make a dash back to their capsule while holding off pursuing Selenites. (An insectoid alien inhabitant of the Moon, seen in Figure 5 below) The students all climb inside, while the Professor grabs onto a rope which tips the rocket down of the Moons surface and into space. A Selenite tries to prevent them from leaving by jumping on top of the rocket, but floats back down to the ground having let go of the rocket which eventually crashes into Earths ocean.

(Figure 5: Selenites Palace)

Taking a longer moment to look at the artwork pictured beneath the sea, fits very well alongside my current reference book; '20,000 leagues Under The Sea' by Jules Verne (1869). There is clearly a sense of style connecting these artists together by their creativity inventing these strange and fantasy based adventures.

Overall, there is no doubt how this is one of the most influential short films of its time. Quota; "...is the most famous of the over 500 short films produced by cinema pioneer Georges Méliès between 1896 and 1912" (rottentomatoes.com) because the auidience can become gripped by the story nonetheless of it being silent. The sound was used very well to build up the tension and to let the audience know that this is a fast or slow scene. 

I personally had never seen a silent movie before, let alone it being in black and white and the quality of film itself being so dated. So this first experience on a large screen has been very encouraging. 

Illustration List:

1 & 2) http://drnorth.wordpress.com/2010/06/10/a-trip-to-the-moon-le-voyage-dans-la-lune/

3 & 4 & 5) http://johnlinkmovies.com/2013/09/08/film-101-a-trip-to-the-moon-1902/






  1. Hi Heidi! Well done on taking the first step and getting a review out there :)
    OK, so first things first... when writing your reviews, you need to spend less time on the 'what is happening' and more on the 'why' (as Phil said in his briefing, he has seen the film knows the plot already!:) Your job is to 'unpick' the film, look at why certain techniques are used, look at the context in which the film was made (what was happening culturally etc). You have started to do that, in your analysis of the use of sound to build tension in the audience.
    When using a quote, make sure it adds to your discussion or argument, and isn't just a descriptive statement; so, instead of ''There they find a bizarre, magical landscape...'', try and find a quote that discusses the use of the 'bizarre' or 'magical' and maybe talk about how this film influenced future film makers.
    It's certainly worth using the library catalogue to look for material to construct your discussion; just a quick example - I put in 'Méliès' in the search and found loads of books relating to Stop Motion, special effects, cinema and architecture etc that all cite Méliès as influential.

    Have a look at the Hints and Tips guide to academic writing that Phil has put together here -


    and also the referencing guide here -


    You are nearly there with your referencing, but not quite :)

    Just a quick reminder of what is required on the brief for submission of the reviews-
    'Reviews of the ‘Space Oddities’ Film programme. Please note – in addition to
    and support of your own critique, your reviews must include a minimum of 3
    quotations from 3 different published sources + poster art + supporting stills.
    Please note - Harvard Method must be used for all quotations and all illustrations to be referenced correctly. Reviews are to include bibliography and illustration list.'

    Again, Heidi, well done on taking the first step - I look forward to your next review!!

    1. Hi Jackie. Yeah I've noticed I have written a story rather then a view. I'll be changing, adding and moving stuff around during this morning.
      However, I am finding it some what difficult to find quotes to this film, being as it's a silent one.

    2. Hi Heidi... don't worry about changing this review - just remember the advice for the next one :) As far as quotes go, don't forget that you are not looking at quoting directly FROM the film, but are looking at quotes by other critics ABOUT the film. So for example, if you have a look in the library you will find books such as this one - 'Empires of the imagination : a critical survey of fantasy cinema from George Melies to the Lord of the Rings.' by Alec Worley, which might be useful. Even easier, is to use Google Books - I put this book title in, and hey presto!... You can isolate the bits that are relevant to Melies! I am coming in this afternoon, so if you want help using the library catalogue etc, come and find me! :)

    3. Aww no! I had spent a few more hours altering some of what I wrote earlier. I added my more descriptive writing anyway. However I'll not change anymore to it.