This review examines George Méliès’s 1902 film, La Voyage Dans La Lune, a film where Méliès uses an array of painted backdrops and special effects to create the other worldly-feel about the film. No one had been to the moon in 1902 so the moon was still mysterious and unexplored, allowing Méliès to create his own world based on fantasy novels of the time such as H. G. Wells’s 1901 novel, ‘First Men in the Moon’. Méliès relied on painted backdrops as was custom at the time, making the whole film look very theatrical and as if it was on a stage, as well as some of the sets looking like they could be an ‘old masters’ landscape painting.
The sets in the film were designed by Méliès himself, capturing the mystery of the moon in a low detail way with the lack of clarity on the shapes adding to the effect the sets create, sometimes only using basic shapes or rock formations but successfully creates the sense of being in a different world, as can be seen in the still above. The depth to the scenes is created using forced perspective, making the 2d sets look real, as is described in the follow quote ‘In his exuberant narrative Méliès successfully mixes traditional stage-craft with his extensive repertory of special effects.’ a technique that is common in theatre and the way he uses special effects with the theatrical sets creates various perspectives in the shot and create the sci-fi element of the film. The scenes also used moving parts to show exploration of the moon as is described in the following quote, ‘Méliès was also known for creating a glass studio that allowed him to carefully construct the mise-en-scène, using elaborate scenic backdrops complete with moving parts’, in the scene above part of the back drop quickly moves away as they explore and becomes a different scene, creating a more immersive experience to the film.
The poster above shows the most famous scene from the film, where lighting and special effects are used to create the character of the moon and create a sense of momentum as the rocket flies towards to moon and ends up lodged in the face , as is described in the following quote, ‘its signature image of a bullet-shaped rocket lodging itself in the eye of a smirking moon is one of the most recognizable images in cinema history.’ This is interesting as it is only a short scene in the film and is purely for comedic purposes, without much relation to the rest of the film, and could be just because of the special effects used were ground-breaking at the time.
Le Voyage Dans La Lune. http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/trip_to_the_moon-1902
R. F. Cousins. Le Voyage Dans La Lune. http://www.filmreference.com/Films-Vi-Wi/Le-Voyage-dans-la-Lune.html.
Tyson James Yates. Le Voyage Dans La Lune. http://staticmass.net/early-films-and-cinema/le-voyage-dans-la-lune-a-trip-to-the-moon-1902/