Works That Shaped The World

The Lunar Origins of Cinema: Georges Méliès and Le Voyage dans la Lune

Episode Summary

Long before humanity could fly, and before we set foot on the moon, Georges Méliès’ ground-breaking film Le Voyage dans la Lune showed what was not yet possible. In this episode, Dr Gemma King shows how this technological marvel and an artistic achievement set the stage for cinema long into the future, becoming the first space blockbuster.

Episode Notes

Since the early days of cinema, the moon has been an enchanting muse. The science of filmmaking was invented by the Lumière brothers, who débuted their cinématographe camera to astonished audiences in 1896. Yet it was their fellow Frenchman Georges Méliès, and his experimentations with short filmmaking, which gave rise to the notion of cinema as art.

Méliès’ 1902 Le Voyage dans la Lune (Journey into the Moon), with its iconic image of a moon with a human face, captures the essence of the early days of cinema; Voyage was both a technological marvel and an artistic achievement.

The film camera and the moon have shared a storied history ever since, from the 1969 footage of the moon landing captured at the ACT’s Honeysuckle Creek to contemporary science fiction and beyond. Reading the history of cinema through lunar motifs offers a new way of understanding the entangled relationships between science and culture, technology and art, the real and the imagined, our desire to control nature and our eternal fascination with the unknown.

In this episode Dr Gemma King, Lecturer in French Studies and French cinema specialist in the School of Literature, Languages and Linguistics, talks about the lunar origins of cinema and Georges Méliès’ ground-breaking film.