How Georges Méliès films are still influencing cinema, more than 100 years later

The filmmaker’s spirit of adventure is the subject of a VR Google Doodle.
Georges Méliès

If you’ve ever watched a science fiction movie, or one that uses special effects, then you owe a debt of gratitude to Georges Méliès, the subject of today’s Google Doodle and one of the few people who truly deserve to be called a “visionary.”

One of cinema’s most important pioneers, Méliès worked in an age when the medium was changing rapidly and when the whole world was obsessed with scientific discovery, explorations, and expeditions to the furthest reaches of the planet. So it’s fitting that a Doodle created in another age of fast-paced cinematic change — our current time — honors him by using some fancy technology of its own.

Méliès, born in 1861, was an innovator par excellence, experimenting with effects in his films that blew people’s minds in an era when film itself was still startling to many people. Employing things like time-lapse photography, multiple exposures, dissolves, pyrotechnics, theatrical machinery, and more, he dazzled his audiences. It looked like magic. (You can see some of these effects on the Doodle’s background page.)

Méliès was working around the turn of the 20th century, a time of burgeoning scientific exploration and big dreams about the future of mankind. The filmmaker tapped into those through his experimentation with effects, and through stories he told tales of discovery.

Méliès’s most famous film is probably Le Voyage dans la Lune (A Trip to the Moon), from 1902. It’s a work of science fiction, inspired partly by stories by people like Jules Verne. In the almost 13-minute film, a group of space explorers travel to the moon, encounter a tribe of strange beings, capture one, and return to Earth. Méliès himself played the crew’s leader, Professor Barbenfouillis.

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