A Trip to the Moon 1902

Le Voyage dans La Lune is the first science fiction movie.
Produced and directed by Melies in early 1900s.


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Home » Movies » A Trip to the Moon

The first science fiction movie. Produced and directed by film pioneer Georges Melies.

Le Voyage Dans la Lune

A Trip to the Moon (Le Voyage dans La Lune) is a 1902 French black and white silent science-fiction movie (the first) based on two popular novels of that time: by Jules Verne and The First Men in the Moon by H. G. Wells.

A Trip to the Moon was written and directed by French pioneer Georges Melies, assisted by his brother. The 1902 film runs for 14 minutes if projected at 16 FPS -- the standard frame rate at the time the first science fiction movie was produced and distributed.

Le Voyage dans La Lune was extremely popular in the 1900s and is the best-known of the 500 short films directed by Melies. was just one of 23 films Melies made in 1902, so you get the idea of his capabilities.


The First Science Fiction Movie

The first science fiction movie utilizes innovative animation techniques and special effects of the time, including the memorable and widely-recognized in cinematic history shot of the space capsule landing in the Moon's eye. That must have hurt! :)

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 This is the first science fiction movie, A Trip to The Moon.

Six brave astronomers embark on a dangerous journey to the Moon and back, in a space shuttle in the shape of a bullet, fired by a big cannon. On the Moon's surface, the exhausted travelers unroll their blankets and sleep. Later on, Phoebe (Goddess of the Moon) appears in a crescent-moon swing and summons a snowfall that awakens them.

a trip to the moon 1902

In Trip to The Moon 1902, the explorers will seek shelter in a cave inhabited by giant mushrooms and Selenites (insectoid aliens named after Selene, the moon goddess).

Surrounded by enemies, the astronomers are captured and taken to the Moon people emperor, which one of them will easily kill.

The visitors then run back to their space shuttle while one of them sacrifices himself using a rope to tip the capsule over a ledge on the Moon and into space. Finally, the shuttle craft lands in an ocean on Earth and the crew is rescued by a ship and towed ashore.

A Trip to The Moon is "a light-hearted satire criticizing the conservative scientific community of its time", being nominated as one of the "100 Greatest Films of the 20th Century" by The Village Voice.


A Trip to The Moon Special Effects

Le Voyage dans La Lune is the most technically innovative movie of its time, displaying a primitive understanding of narrative film technique. The film techniques used in A Trip to The Moon 1902 include the sudden disappearances of Selenites, not that surprising giving the fact that Melies was indeed a real-life magician.

Melies pioneered the art of film editing, making up and inventing the film medium as he directed. He developed on his own the art of special effects in earlier films, including double exposure, the use of dissolve and fade, the special effects known as superimpositions and the split screens for identical actors. The background sets in Trip to The Moon 1902 are simple, painted flats, as you can see in the picture below.

le voyage dans la lune

Trip to The Moon 1902 had an astronomical budget for that time (10,000 francs) and was completed in 4 months. Melies used machinery and techniques from theater, but also experimented with clay models and paper-based costumes. He hired the skilled acrobats of Folies-Bergere to play the Selenites.

Melies' intention was to release the film in the U.S. for profit, after its previous launch in France. However, Thomas Edison's film technicians secretly made copies of it and distributed it freely, which lead Melies to bankruptcy, despite the science fiction movie being a huge success in U.S. Being unable to compete against larger companies, Melies eventually abandoned films in 1912, returned to the stage, and was quickly forgotten.


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