A Trip to the Moon (1902)

"Le voyage dans la lune"
Georges Méliès
1902 • 13 Minutes • 1.33:1 • France
Black & White • Silent • Star Film

Cast:  Georges Méliès, Bleuette Bernon, Henri Delannoy
Writers: Georges Méliès based on the works of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells
Producer: Georges Méliès 
Cinematography: Michaut, Lucien Tainguy

Often credit as one of the first (if not THE first) science fiction film, the wonderful images Méliès captures in this pioneer film are still amongst the most memorable and iconic in cinema.  The story follows a group of astronomers who are shot into space (via a cannon) and land on the moon's surface where they meet an entire society of moon people before returning to Earth and splashing down in the sea.  It is perhaps Méliès most well-known film, with the shot of the cannon shell lodged in the moon's "eye" being the most famous.

Méliès was a stage magician who entered filmmaking after seeing a screening of a Lumiere Bros. film. He directed over 500 films during his career and he used a wider variety of his magic techniques to create magic on film and A Trip to the Moon is no different. Méliès, in addition to producing, writing and directing also acts in the film as the Professor who shots the ship into space and as the moon itself.  The art direction of the professor's lab and the moon itself were ahead of its time, and nothing audiences had really seen before.  At one point in the film, the spaceship falls off the moon and lands back on Earth in the sea. To shoot the underwater scenes, Méliès placed a fish tank in front of the camera so the actors appeared as if they were in the water with the sea life.  This is an example of the inventiveness that Méliès was famous for.  

The film proved a massive success which led to Thomas Edison, among others, to pirate the film in the United States. Edison made a fortune off the film by distributing it in the States, of which Méliès did not see one cent. Unfortunately, Méliès shortly went bankrupt afterwards.

A Trip to the Moon is essential viewing for fans of science fiction, fantasy or film in general. Over 100 years later, it still captures the imagination.

The film is in the public domain and you can watch it below: