The silent film Voyage to the Moon directed by Georges Méliès represents an important landmark in the development of cinematography since it incorporates a variety of techniques that were revolutionary by the standards of the early twentieth century. For a long time, the color version of the film was believed to be irretrievably lost.
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However, due to painstaking effort of many cinematographers, it was eventually restored and displayed at the Cannes Film Festival. Overall, one can say that the restored version of this movie only enhances the sense of unreality that Méliès tried to create; moreover, it highlights the idea that Voyage to the Moon is a surrealistic fantasy and a theatrical performance, rather than a science-fiction film. This is the main thesis that should be elaborated in greater detail.
By coloring this film, cinematographers were able to enrich this work of art. In particular, the color version helps the audience understand the way in which this director could have envisioned the fantastic images that he created. For instance, it is possible to speak about the scenes in which the landscape of the Moon is depicted. To a great extent, this landscape becomes much more vivid.
Furthermore, the audience can better visualize the clothes of the main characters and the complex scenery designed for the movie. This is one of the changes that should be considered, since for more than a century, the viewers were deprived of this opportunity.
Apart from that, this version enables the spectators to see that this film can be compared to a theatrical performance with very complex stage decorations that are more important than actors who cannot contribute much to the film. This is one of the techniques frequently employed by Georges Méliès. Additionally, much attention to should be paid to the sound track included in the restored version of this movie.
At the beginning, it creates the sense of suspense and prompts the audience to think that the main characters can be exposed to grave danger. In contrast, the original musical score creates a light-hearted mood which does not give rise to any misgivings. This is one of the differences that should be considered by the viewers.
One can also say that the color version changes the effect produced by the fantastic elements of this movie. In particular, the viewers can see that Georges Méliès wants to highlight the unreality or even theatricality of the action. This argument is particularly relevant if one speaks about Méliès’s conception of the Moon surface.
For instance, one can speak about the giant mushrooms that seem to be taken out of a surrealistic dream when they are colored (Voyage to the Moon). Furthermore, the director’s portrayal of the Moon inhabitants or Selenites becomes more vivid. These insectoid creatures appear to be even more grotesque (Voyage to the Moon).
The main issue is that at the time, when this film was first released, the images of Selenites produced a long-lasting impression on the spectators, but nowadays, they seem to be comic. Yet, it is difficult to determine whether Georges Méliès could anticipate this effect. This is one of the aspects that can be identified.
It is possible to argue that Voyage to the Moon cannot be viewed as a science fiction film, even though this cinematographic work was partly inspired by Jules Verne’s novels. However, Georges Méliès uses them to create fantastic or even surrealistic images. For instance, one can mention the scene depicting astronomers’ landing on the Moon.
It seems that they reach a fairy-tale world inhabited by grotesque monsters that explode as soon as they are hit. Such images are hardly compatible with science-fiction cinematography or literature. Moreover, one can mention the opening of Astronomers’ Club. The actors’ clothing and setting suggest that the action could take place in the Middle Ages, but not at the beginning of the twentieth century (Voyage to the Moon).
In this way, Georges Méliès increases the sense of unreality that has to captivate the audience. One can also say that the plot of this movie is only as used as a pretext for showcasing the images that cinematographic art can produce.
However, he does not want to depict the events in a realistic manner. The adoption of this approach is one of the reasons why Georges Méliès is distinguished among other film-directors who worked during the silent era of cinematography. This is one of the points that can be made.
Overall, this discussion suggests that the restoration of Georges Méliès’s film throws a new light on this cinematographic work. First of all, it demonstrates that Georges Méliès intended this movie to a fantasy film which was not closely related to science fiction.
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More likely, this film should be viewed as a theatrical performance showcasing fantastic and surrealistic images. So, the restoration of the colored version of Georges Méliès’s enriches this masterpiece and helps the audience better appreciate this work. These are the main arguments that can be advanced.
Voyage to the Moon. Ex. Prod. Georges Méliès. Los Angeles: Technicolor Lab, 2011. DVD.