George Méliès, Voyage To The Moon (1902), was a film that was loosely based around two different novels:
Jules Verne's From the Earth to the Moon (1865) and H. G. Wells' The First Men in the Moon (1901).
Although the film is in black and white and one of the fist silent films to be created; Méliès was able to create a short film based entirely on facial expressions and actions that helped to portray the storyline of this very early sci-fi, fantasy film that showed an area that had yet to be properly discovered and ventured, the moon.
Considering Voyage To The Moon was filmed at 16 frames per second and there was a limit to the effects that could be included into films, they relied much more on set design and lighting to help emphasise the focus and depth of each of the scenes and to show the scale of objects being used within the film.
‘Laughably the "astronauts" are all dressed in street clothes on the moon, waving and then simultaneously drawing blankets over themselves as human faced stars of the Big Dipper look at them.’ (Nesbit, 2006)
The image above is a good example of the portrayal of the moon or space back in 1902. Due to the lack of scientific discoveries by this point; space was being represented by giant foliage that was bigger than humans to emphasise the strange world outside of Planet Earth, this also helped to give the set and scene more depth as the mushroom on the right hand side shows how small the characters are in comparison. John Nesbit also helps to prove the point that there was very little knowledge on space or the moon at the time, as the actors ascend to the moon in everyday clothing and wander about as though the moon has the same gravity as Earth; however, this all adds to the comedic side of the film that was probably never intended when it was created.
'For Méliès, a theatre man, the camera simply replaced the audience. He positioned it far to one end of his studio, while the rest of the space was devoted to the floor-level stage and its various props’ (Edwards, 2009)
The image and the quote from Chris Edwards, both indicate at the use of set design to help with the space that Méliès could use. Méliès decided to leave the camera still instead of moving it around, which meant the set designs and the environment and space that the actors could work in had to help portray the scenes and give enough depth and scale to make everything used in the scene look the correct size. This was done by using background and foreground sets as shown in figure 2, with the taller houses behind the actors and the smaller houses at the forefront of the scene; this was done to help scale and size the actors and also the rocket, to help show the size of that prop against the actors and the rest of the set.
‘The primitive silent landmark has more charm and originality than many modern CGI-cluttered epics.’ (Hall, 2004)
Méliès managed to create an iconic film in the space of 14 minutes, using props and sets and a standalone camera. This film has had a bigger impact on films then most films made in the last 10 years have, which proves it’s not the technology that makes a film great and that’s not what will make it an iconic film that will be remembered a century later.
The image above is the most iconic image from the film, when the space rocket collides with the moon and gets wedged into the moons eye; this image is the one that most people will recognise, even if they haven’t even seen the film. Méliès managed to create a classic film in 14 minutes, using only 16 frames per second and no change of camera, just sets, natural day light and actors.
Chris Edwards (2009).In: http://silent-volume.blogspot.co.uk02.07.09 [online] At: http://silent-volume.blogspot.co.uk/2009/02/trip-to-moon-1902.html (Accessed on 28/9/12)
Hall P. (2004). Film Threat. In: rottentomatoes.com08.03.04 [online] At: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/trip_to_the_moon-1902/ (Accessed on 29/9/12)
John Nesbit. (2006). In: http://oldschoolreviews.com06 [online] At: http://oldschoolreviews.com/rev_20/trip_moon.htm (Accessed on 29/9/12)
Film Still (Fig 1) http://drnorth.files.wordpress.com/2010/06/le-voyage-dans-la-lune-georges-melies-1902-tableau-8c.png?w=584&h=438
Film Still (Fig 2)
Film Still (Fig 3)