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 earlycinema.com 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.
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)