SRCZ Film Classics 2.2: 'A Trip To The Moon' (1902, France, Méliès)



Cinema, in universal terms, is still very young but despite its comparative youth we have moved along way forward from the first tentative steps into motion capture began over a century ago. We may complain that there are too many movies to catch up with now or even that they simply don’t interest us but to have such a luxury of choice is still a marvel.


 If you watch the cinema that mesmerized the eyes of our fellow cinema goers in the beginning decades though, there is much to marvel! Take for instance, the rather wonderful A Trip To The Moon, released in 1902. Coming in at just over ten minutes it must have been a bigger thrill to watch on first release than it is now. As one of the first science fiction films it mixes elements of Jules Verne with other contemporary influences and makes a film that is still visually arresting to this day.


Many will be familiar with the iconic image of the moon looking rather put out that man’s first voyage to the stars has literally hit it in the eye, and rightly so. The composition of the image is as stunning and hilarious now as it no doubt was then.  But that’s just one image from the many memorable visual compositions that are presented to audience. More striking perhaps is the realisation of the Moon itself. Filled with odd vegetation, weird shrubbery and a tribe of warriors made of space dust that appear to be semi fox in their appearance it’s a surreal experience that  really speaks of the adventurous spirit of the new century. 


When we watch the movie now, of course, it doesn’t seem anything like as impressive as the mere concept of film actually was in 1902. But forget the fact it’s a silent movie and the visuals only become more impressive. Look at the sheer detail present in every shot. A Trip To The Moon is only ten minutes long and completely silent, but it tells a powerful story. A group of scientists go to the moon in their impressively art deco space craft, poke it in the eye, reduce many of its residents to dust and get chased out by them very quickly. This was before we knew what the moon even looked like and over a century later we still don’t know what the moon looks like exactly. 


Of course, we know it’s not populated with strange shrubbery and fox like natives but few have actually been there to say differently. In that sense the film still resonates. And the question of whether we need to be on the moon is still there. Would be we welcome even? It’s hard to say for sure but if we were anything like the destructive explorers in this film we would surely not be welcome. What is welcome though is the chance to enjoy a film from more than a century ago and see just how far cinema has come.  


You can watch this early example of science fiction film at the BFI Player


(S.Gahan)

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