How Georges Méliès saw the night sky

Here’s how the pioneering French filmmaker's 1902 sci-fi classic influenced the way we view the moon
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Film still from A Trip to the Moon (Le Voyage dans le lune) (1902) by Georges Méliès, as reproduced in Universe
Film still from A Trip to the Moon (Le Voyage dans le lune) (1902) by Georges Méliès, as reproduced in Universe

Our new book Universe: Exploring the Astronomical World reproduces some of the greatest images humans have ever produced of the heavens. The book takes in everything from the earliest, primitive renderings of sky gods, through to some of the latest astronomical photographs.

However, the book's contributors aren't limited to scientists, mystics and artists. There's also cinematic imagery, such as this famous model of the moon, created by the pioneering French director Georges Méliès for his film A Trip to the Moon. Here’s how our new book characterises the film’s celestial aspirations, and earthly influences.

“Méliès’s silent film - the first science fiction movie - projects humankind’s aspirations to reach another world,” explains Universe. “A Trip to the Moon was inspired by Jules Verne’s From the Earth to the Moon, and its sequel Around the Moon, written a century before a man finally stepped on the Moon’s surface.

 

“While Verne’s novels showed early attempts to imagine scientific ways to travel to the moon with much flourish, theatricality and innovative special effects, the film itself concentrates on the whimsy and excitement of the astronomers led by Professor Barbenfouillis (played by Méliès).

"On the Moon, they encounter the hostility of the Selenites, before capturing one of their number, whom they parade to the crowds upon their triumphant return to Earth. A Trip to the Moon helped to fix the appearance of the Moon in popular imagery as a world with jagged, rocky terrains, as seen in later movies such as Irving Pichel’s Destination Moon (1950) and Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). It was only with the Apollo 11 landing in July 1969 that the Moon would be revealed as a world with smooth dusty plains and rounded hills.”

 

Universe: Exploring the Astronomical World

For more cosmic images by such varied star gazers as NASA, Andy Warhol, DC Comics, Picasso and Hergé order a copy of Universe: Exploring the Astronomical World here.


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