Created by the legendary Georges Méliès and inspired by the Jules Verne novels From the Earth to the Moon and Around the Moon, A Trip to the Moon is the first ever science-fiction film to last for more than 90 seconds. The film follows four astronomers (Henri Delannoy, Brunnet, Farjaux and Kelm), who fly to the Moon (whose signature face is Bleuette Bernon) to explore its surface and meet its inhabitants.
The first film to have a coherent narrative to last for more than 3 minutes, and the first science-fiction film to have an actual beginning-middle-end narrative, it is impossible to deny what a significant moment for cinema this film was. The first genuinely significant film to feature visual effects – rockets and other planets – made for truly groundbreaking practical effects work and editing back in 1902, no matter how cheesy some argue that the shot of the Moon’s face is. The production design and mise-en-scene are rich in detail, and it clear how much time, effort and love Méliès and his team put into this magnificent vision of another world, where everything is so different to Earth and testifies to a rich imagination.
Combining a coherent fictional narrative with visual effects, Méliès created not only a whole new form of entertainment with this film, but a whole new form of art. Who knows where cinema would be today without Méliès and his vision on display here? Almost 12 decades later, and he still inspires filmmakers, made most clear by the fact that he was the first director to bring to screen the concept of an alien planet being infiltrated for the first time (with which, at the time, he cleverly played to man’s fascination with the universe, 67 years before the actual first Moon landing).
A Trip to the Moon truly is a cornerstone of cinema, which no critic can ever truly do justice to (I am willing to admit that I have not), but which anyone who is interested in the art of film really must watch at least once. By 1920 it remained a cinematic cornerstone, it continues to remain one now in 2020, and will almost certainly remain one in 2120. We all owe Georges Méliès a great debut, for here he did not just create a film, but an original art form.