Sunday, March 04, 2012

Le Voyage dans la Lune

The restored version of the well - known moon with the spaceship on his eye
As the only celestial body shining as bright as the sun at night, moon has spurred imagination since the first human and many generations thereafter. The ancient Egyptians have even explained the moon wanes every night all because of a gamble. 

To win extra days, Thoth gambled with Khonsu, the moon, who lost so much light to Thoth, that Thoth used those light to gain 5 days and that, of course, explained why the moon wanes every night.

This fascination toward the moon had continued well beyond  the centuries and found its way to marry with poetic scientific spirit to produce Jules Verne’s From the Earth to the Moon and  H.G Wells' The First Men in the Moon. 

George Méliès, the French illusionist and the greatest fantasy filmaker of all time,  in turn based on these two works to make  Le Voyage dans la Lune in 1902, the pioneer of modern fantasy film, and also the origin of the most memorable cinematic picture of the spaceship landing on the eye of the moon.

In Le Voyage dans la Lune, you not only see the moon with an bleeding eye but also scientists in astronomer robes, spaceship like bullet, umbrella turning into giant mushroom and Selenites (green moon men) vanishing into red gas.
Scientists in astronomer robes

This once black and white silent film is not black and white and silent anymore when Méliès's hand - painted footage was found and was painstakingly restored into full coloured version with new original scores from the French band, Air.

Air with its already distinctive electronic music in Moon Safari seems like a little ironical twist to complete the circle in composing music for Le Voyage dans la Lune. Indeed the band fully took advantages of the silence in the film and made the bombastic music for the 'trip' to and adventure in the moon (Sonic Armada) while dream - like music for the wonder of night and stars (Who am I now?).

Umbrella turns into mushroom 
Wonderful though the music is, it can never overshadow the innovative film techniques that Méliès dared to experiment during the fin de siècle.

The special effect for which the umbrella transforming into giant mushroom and Selenites turning into a puff of red gas is done by stop - camera technique (which is to film the object, turn the camera off, remove the object, and then turn the camera back on - the object will seem disappear for the viewer)

The landing of the spaceship is done by moving the moon closer to the static camera, so that this could achieve a long forward travelling effect. All these techniques were so innovative at the time that they were comparable to the 3D effect in the Avatar. 

The actual landing of the moon in 1969 (67 years after the film)  has done nothing to dampen imagination toward the moon (for example - Apollo 18 made in 2011, a movie about alien life on moon). The moon voyage goes on.


Amanda said...

hahahah I actually find this post (a break from politics and law/whatnot) really interesting.

Cool!! Thanks for letting us know!

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