Le Voyage dans la Lune: delightful and charming film about space travel

Georges Méliès, “Le Voyage dans la Lune” (1902)

Delightful short film, the first science fiction film and the first film to feature animation as well as live action, “Le Voyage dans la Lune” tells a tale of six astronomers chosen by their academy to ride a rocket to the moon where they crash-land and meet a most unusual race of beings called Selenites. The Selenites don’t take too kindly to their new visitors so they arrest the men and bring them before their king. The astronomers rebel against their capture and escape the court. They arrive back to their rocket in the nick of time and race back to Earth to tell everyone of their strange adventures on the moon.

The film is told with narration that was added long after it was made. The chief glory of the short is its use of animation, painted props and background scenes and the way the props are ingeniously used to simulate flight towards the moon and changes in the sky above the astronomers’ heads as they see the Earth rise above the horizon and the stars and planets circulate around them. The acting may be pedestrian but the costuming, if rather antiquated and fanciful in appearance to modern eyes, seems appropriate for the fantastic story and its setting; the Selenites in particular wear original and striking costumes fit for aliens. The actors playing the Selenites are obviously acrobats and the decision to use acrobats anc circus performers was deliberate to demonstrate how very different the Selenites are from humans. Scene changes are well done and though some scenes tend to blur into the next, this problem is not at all obvious.

It’s a film that’s well worth watching for everyone, not just students of film history; children especially will thrill to the whimsy and charm of the story and its characters. There is something very light-hearted and playful about the film that reassures viewers that, apart from a few Selenites who literally blow up when beaten by umbrellas, no-one will suffer and all the astronomers manage to get back home safely.

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