A Trip to the Moon

A Trip to the Moon

More like a trip into the past


Netflix recently added on the streaming side the 1902 silent film A Trip to the Moon (or in the original French Le Voyage dans la Lune). This film, touted as the very first science fiction film and often called the masterpiece of early filmmaker Georges Méliès was extremely influential in the early cinema. In part because this was one of the first projects to tell a story rather than portray a slice of life vignette or simply a news reel.

The film really doesn’t stand up very well to the passage of time. A lot of artistic license was consumed violating laws of physics that were known as far back as the 17th century, and Méliès intentionally lampooned aristocracy and imperialism, much of which doesn’t necessarily come off as satire on first viewing. The exploitation of the Selenites (Lunar natives) and subsequent captivity of one who hitched a ride to Earth are probably the most obvious aspects of parody.

There is, however, a portrayal of women as subservient which I suspect was not part of the parody as much as of 19th-century thinking, particularly in Europe. (I say 19th-century because the first decade of the 20th century more closely resembles the 19th.)

The film was extremely popular upon its release. Today, 113 years after the initial release, it’s difficult to see why this film was so popular. Indeed, I found myself checking how much of the film remained on more than one occasion. The story is not compelling in the least. The film is essentially a stage play with a few special effects that can only be done with a camera. While most cinematic techniques we have come to view as expected still hadn’t been developed, this film did invent a few and had tremendous influence on the entire industry. 1902, remember.

If you have not seen this film and you are in any way associated with, or a fan of science fiction, this ten minute film (considered very long in its day) is compulsory viewing. Watch it for the historical value, for the satire embedded within, and to appreciate how far we’ve come as a genre, as filmmakers, and as people. We have indeed come a long way, baby. And not just the women.

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