Le Voyage dans la lune (Georges Méliès, 1902) is one of the greats of early cinema. It blends narrative with luscious screenscapes- although obviously sets, their presence is a powerful imagination of place. The first visual aspect that struck me was the lighting on the canon, ready to shoot out the ship toward the moon- a gleaming structure, dominant over everything else on earth.
Then, the man in the moon really does exist- a surreal realisation of how we have imagined the moon to be. And the careless ease with which the ship destroys the moon’s eye suggests the destruction that man’s industrial and technological development will have on the natural world. The men leave the ship, explore the moon’s territory, and an early commentary on colonialism ensues- the white men attack, destroy, the native creatures of the moon. Surrounded by the beautiful fauna (mushrooms- not just a coincidental parrallel with the hallucinogens, I think), the white settlers become obsessed with destruction and escape.
What follows is pure absurdity- the ship bounces out of the sea and all is well. I would love to know what the surrealists really did think of this film. I imagine they would have loved it- although made by a French filmmaker, it dealt with exoticism and the expansion of the world. As Chénieux-Gendron writes, ‘On the borders of continents, the boundaries of normality.’