Le Voyage dans la Lune (eng. A Trip to the Moon) is a silent fantasy-science fiction short film directed by movie director pioneer Georges Méliès and produced by Star Film in 1902. Black and white versions as well as hand-coloured versions of this film exist. It takes some inspiration from two books: From the Earth to the Moon and Around the Moon by Jules Verne, as stated by Méliès himself in a 1930 interview, but cinema historians recognize The First Men in the Moon by H. G. Wells as a possible inspiration, too, regarding the second part of the movie.
Cast members of notice are Georges Méliès himself who plays the head astronomer, Bleuette Bernon who plays the girl on the crescent moon, the Ballet of the Théâtre du Châtelet who play the stars and the girls who assist the rocket launch, the Acrobats of the Folies Bergèr that play the Selenites and Victor André as the Moon's face and one of the astronomers.
Note: this is a highly-detailed plot of the film, do not read it if have not seen it yet and you plan to watch it.
In an assembly room in Paris, astronomers, dressed with tunics and conic hats similar to the typical outfit we think Merlin wore, are discussing over a way to travel to the Moon. Professor Barbenfouillis, the head astronomer, shows the other scientists on a chalkboard his idea to reach the Moon traveling inside a rocket. Everyone applaudes at the idea, then six of the astronomers, including Barbenfouillis, take off their tunics and hats and wear jackets and top hats, brought by female attendants. Each one of them also take an umbrella with him. All the other astronomers, still in their astronomer outfits, warmly salute them.
The six astronomers arrive at the factory where the rocket is being built to see how the work proceed and try to sit inside the rocket. However, once there, they disturb the busy workers with their clumsiness, so the workers suggest them to go see a great spectacle from the top of the factory they are in.
The six astronomers climb to the top of the factory and see the spectacular industrial landscape of Paris, with its towering chimneys. At the center, they see the rocket's melting basin, where liquid metal is being poured in. After that, a spectacular show of flames and smoke takes places, to their amusement. One of them watched all of this with a telescope.
The rocket is now ready to be launched so the six scientists go to the terrace where the cannon which is supposed to launch the rocket to the moon is placed. Under the supervision of a high officer, the scientists salute the public with a bow and clumsily enter the rocket, which is then pushed in the cannon by a large group of nice girls in sailor-suits. The cannon is then closed and the girls salute the departing scientists waving their hats.
The girls take place at the side of the cannon, while the officer prepares to give the signal to fire the rocket. He raises his sabre, then lowers it, prompting the cannon attendant to light the fuse. The cannon fires and the rocket begins its travel to the moon, while people rush at the cannon to energically salute them.
The Moon appears on screen, getting bigger and bigger, suggesting us that the rocket is approaching it. A face eventually appears on the Moon and the rocket lands in its right eye, causing it to bleed.
The scientists' rocket lands on the Moon -even if we already saw it landing in the prior scene- and they all climb down and set foot on the Moon's surface, then they raise their hands and the rocket disappears. They then watch in amazement and enthusiasm the Earth rising in the Moon's sky, after that, they begin their exploration on the Moon but are scared by an explosion. Once the danger passes, they take out some blankets and lay down to sleep. While they are sleeping, stars with faces of women appear in the sky, watching them. Then they disappear and an attractive woman on a crescent moon and an old man on Saturn appear instead, apparently watching and pointing the sleeping scientists. When they disappear, too, snow begins to fall and the astronomers wake up and resume their exploration. They see a crater and decide to climb down in it.
Down the crater, the scientists find a cave full of giant mushrooms, a waterfall and a river. Professor Barbenfouillis open its umbrella and stucks it near a mushroom to compare their size. Everyone notice the big size of the mushroom, but all of a sudden the umbrella transforms in a mushroom and begins to grow taller and taller, under the look of the surprised scientists. From behind the mushroom, an inhabitant of the Moon, called Selenites, pops out and begins to leap and caper scaring the scientists. Barbenfouillis hits him with his umbrella and the Selenite disappears in a cloud of smoke. A second one appears, but Barbenfouillis makes him disappear as well. Eventually, though, a horde of Selenites appears and captures the scientists.
The astronomers are taken by the Selenites to the court of the king of Selenites, a monster with crab-like claws sitting on a throne, with star-women at his feet. The Selenites have tied up the hands of the scientists, but didn't take their umbrellas from them. Barbenfouillis manages to free his hands and attacks the king grabbing him and slamming him on the ground, making him disappear like the other two Selenites before him, then all the astronomers flee while the Selenites guards and the ordinary Selenites chase them.
Escaping, the astronomers return to the Moon's surface. While the others run away, Barbenfouillis stops to fight the Selenites with his umbrella, making disappear two of them.
The astronomers reach the rocket, which is standing on a spur over the very edge of a ravine, and all of them climb inside it. Soon Barbenfouillis arrives, but is grabbed by a Selenite. However Barbenfouillis kicks him, making him disappear, and grabs a rope tied up to the nose cone of the rocket, pulling it down with him down into the void. While the rocket is falling, a Selenite climbs on it and is pulled down with it as well. After the rocket fell down, the Selenite army arrives and acknowledge in anger that the prisoners fled.
The rocket falls down from the Moon towards the Earth with the Selenite still on it and Barbenfouillis still grasping the rope. It eventually falls in the ocean and sinks to the bottom, but then raises to the surface and is rescued by a ship which drags it to dry land. One of the astronomers rows while still in the rocket, like it was a boat, to help getting to dry land. The Selenite is taken prisoner.
The rocket triumphally enters Paris and everyone salutes the heroic astronomers. The mayor congratulates with and crowns each one of them. A guard and the captive Selenite arrive, though, fighting, but the prisoner quickly joins the mood of jubilation and begins to dance with the others and do acrobating leaps.
In the last scene of the movie, a statue depicting Professor Barbenfouillis triumphing with a feet on a small reproduction of the Moon with a rocket in its right eye is showed to the people, in celebration of the audacious voyage. The sailor-suit wearing girls from the start of the movie than round dance in joy around the statue and the movie ends.
Why It Rocks
- It is one of the earliest science fiction movies ever made. Some critics consider it the very first science fiction movie ever made due to its influency in the history of cinema.
- It codified many basis of the science fiction genre, like the casual discovery of a way to neutralize the aliens; in this case, being struck with umbrellas.
- Amazing story, effectively based on a subject by two of the masters of science fiction novels.
- Like in every silent movie, the acting is remarkable and over-the-top in a funny way, like when the head astronomer get scared by the first Selenite encountered.
- Great, amazing special effects, like the Selenites exploding, the snowing in the moon's sky and the antropomorphic Saturn, crescent moon and stars.
- Stunning backgrounds and scenography, even more enjoyable in the hand coloured version. Particularly the view of the industrial landscape of Paris.
- Great and detailed costumes, especially the Selenites' ones, in part created by Méliès himself.
- A possible, cheerful and funny satire on imperialism.
- The scene where the astronomers' rocket lands in the Moon's right eye has found a permanent place in our imaginary and is one of the most famous scenes in the history of cinema.
- The antagonists of the film, the Selenites, are creepy and comic at the same time, thanks to the acting and acrobatic skills of the actors.
- It is a document that lets us see beautiful women unruined by today's fashion rules (this is not a joke pointer).
Le Voyage dans la Lune had enormous worldwide success at the time of its release, and was particularly appreciated in the U. S. and France, where exhibitors were forced to leave theaters opened until midnight. It also had great success in Germany, Canada and Italy, where it was a headline attractions in 1904.
Today, it is regarded as a masterpiece and the film that forged the basis of the science fiction genre, as well as one of the greatest science fiction movies and one of the greatest movies in the history of cinema overall. It has a current rating of 9.4/10 on rottentomatoes.com.
- While this is undoubtely Méliès' most famous and most successfull movie, he always thought his best movie was La Civilisation à travers les âges, a pessimistic historical drama dealing with the evilness of humanity through the ages, whose copies are yet to be found.
- In 1908, a remake of this movie directed by Segundo de Chomon was released, with the title Excursion dans le Lune.
- In the 2011 omage-film Hugo, directed by Martin Scorsese, scenes from this movie are showed.
Several version exist of this film. The last two scenes (the incoronation of the astronomers and the showing of the statue) were thought to be lost but a version including them was later found. The coloured version was thought to be lost as well but a version was found in 1993, albeit in desperate condition. It was however succesfully restored and presented to the public in the 2011 Festival of Cannés. The videos provided here are of the most complete black-and-white and coloured versions avaible on internet. The film is in public domain so feel free to watch.