Thursday, 26 September 2013

Voyage dans le Lune Review

George Melies was a very influential director as he was the pioneer of special effects in the late 19th century. He aired the first double exposure (1898), the first split screen (1898) and the first dissolve (1899), but his charm comes in that he did not try and use these special effects to replicate real life, but create his own surreal genre of film. This is what makes his films so timeless and recognisable. He was quoted on saying “I seek to present spectacles of a kind not possible in live theatre” which is clear in Le Voyage dans la Lune. It is clear the inspiration taken from live theatre, with actors entering stage left and right and a lot of scenes happening horizontally such as when the actors pile into their spaceship (1). Rather than making this look like there was no other way to do it/ having a small budget, Melies uses this to his advantage with scenes set up to look almost like snapshots or photographs, with often perfect symmetry (such as when they are looking through the telescope (2) ) and creating exaggerated almost warped depth which all adds to the surrealism. Actors would repeat actions over again or pause in a position for a while which exaggerated the vibe of the film. Another effective theatre inspired convention was the scene where the gods appear in the sky (3)- this had a timeless cabaret feel which wouldn’t look out of place in stylised films today. Melies has stylised the film further by exaggerating the illustrative style of the moons and stars, rather than trying to make them look real. This is a contrast to the real life actors and creates even more of a great atmosphere.

        (1)   (2)                                                     (3)

My personal favourite modern Melies adaptation is the Smashing Pumpkins music video for Tonight Tonight, it is a perfect example of how Melies distinct style can be transferred into modern culture. In the music video is essentially a remake of the film, with the classic face in the moon and a mix of 2D and 3D with an even more contrasting effect using modern more high quality cameras. The flat stage like quality of the video, again using cabaretesque characters in clouds is refreshing for modern audiences as we are not so used to seeing it.

(Stills from "Tonight Tonight" by Smashing Pumpkins directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris)


  1. Hi Livi,

    Okey dokey... firstly, the content of this review is good; the references to the theatricality, and the use of the special effects to create something surreal are all very valid and interesting points - BUT - as I mentioned in my last feedback, you must support your ideas and theories with quotes from published sources, either online or in book form. For example, have a look at Google Books... I put in Georges Méliès in the search, and straight away came up with a book by Elizabeth Ezra, with a chapter devoted to Méliès' use of special effects, called 'Méliès does tricks' - full of quotable source material!

    One other thing - a bit nit-picky I know- but it looks more professional if you label your images 'Figure 1' or 'Fig. 1'... this also has the advantage of making illustrations list easier to read.

    It is good to see you are relating Méliès' work with contemporary examples - just make sure you don't get carried away using too many images or too much description of the modern take on the film :)

    1. Ahh OK thanks Jackie :) i'll have a look at Google Books for next weeks review

    2. Ahh OK thanks Jackie :) i'll have a look at Google Books for next weeks review