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Le Voyage dans la Lune: Movie magic that changed the world of film

When talking about the history of le cinéma(the cinema), a picture of the Moon whose face was shot by a bullet-shaped rocket would be the first thing that pops up in the mind of most people who are indulged in film. Certainly, I am talking about “Le Voyage dans la Lune” or “A Trip to the Moon” in English. This silent black-and-white film was directed by Georges Méliès, a French magicien(magician) and, most importantly, a pioneering film director who created a number of films with his awe-inspiring innovations that has changed the world of film forever. This week’s blog of Let’sGetFRENCH is going to talk about the film that has been iconic and has been in people’s all-time memory for more than a century as not only does it show how smart le directeur(the director) was, but also how people at that time perceived the first human’s trip to the moon. Let’s watch together! Le Voyage dans la Lune.


The film was created in 1902, the age in which film was still a brand new thing for the world and the concept of space traveling inspired by various famous sci-fi romans(novels) had a great influence on people. This chef-d’oeuvre(masterpiece) of Méliès was inspired by a variety of preceding concepts that people can travel into space mainly from the novels of Jules Verne; “De la Terre à la Lune”(From the Earth to the Moon) and “Autour de la Lune”(Around the Moon). This 12-minute-long film revolves around a group of astronomers who travel from the Earth to the Moon by a cannon-propelled capsuled rocket, face with the Selenites, the Moon’s inhabitants; and make their way back to the Earth with a captive Selenite.


Méliès applied lots of techniques to make his film stunning like no other by using new filming and editing tricks to create a movie magic. He accidentally found how to make things or people suddenly appear in the scene when he was cutting and connecting wrong pieces of film. This technique is called the substitution splice, in which the camera operator stopped filming for a while to allow an object or a character to appear in between the scene. We can see this techniques used in a lot of scenes, for example, when the Selenites are hit by an umbrella, causing them to explode and disappear.

Méliès distribution to the film was not only that he invented many new techniques to make the film interesting, but also he starred as a character in the film as Barbenfouillis, a leading astronomer, as well. Méliès told that “I was a star without knowing I was one, since the term did not yet exist.”

Not only the film is considered the first sci-fi movie, but also it is a satirical slapstick as it makes fun of the nineteenth-century science by exaggerating the scientific ideas into an adventurous and exciting story. An explicit example would be a scene where the Moon is portrayed as if it were a human and had feelings as he frowns when he is hit by the rocket. What’s more, as Méliès was also an anti-imperialism critic, the film contains a satire of Western colonialism. The last scene of the film where a group of people celebrated the success of the astronomers by dancing around a statue of the honored astronomer, Barbenfouillis, and ridicule a captive Selenite resembled the bullying colonialists of that time.

12204690_1072235789477965_2094834323_nMost copies of the film were lost during 1917 when French military occupied his office and melted down many of his film copies to gather silver for use in the army. However, one hand-coloured copy survived and was revived by technicians in Los Angeles. This film was selected to show in the Cannes Film Festival in France in 2011.

There are many references to the film Le Voyage dans la Lune. One of them is “L’invention de Hugo Cabret”(The Invention of Hugo Cabret), a story that pays tribute to the initiative of Méliès and the film Le Voyage dans la Lune for being a great inspiration for people to create imaginative sci-fi movies. The movie version “Hugo” has been a big success and won many Academic Awards, including Best Picture in 2011. In this movie, it portrays how Méliès made his films and invented many magnificent things such as an automaton who could write automatically.

This is a trailer of the movie Hugo by Martin Scorsese from a YouTube channel Clevver Movie.

France is a country of world-changing inventions and a home of many historical origin of things we use commonly nowadays like film. Therefore, to learn how the French think and create such innovative things and their culture seems to be much more interesting than ever before.

Let’s watch the full hand-colored version of this film which was shown in the Cannes Film Festival 2011 from a YouTube channel solopevach.

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