1890s – Part 2

The 1890s – The Beginnings of Cinema – Part 2

astronomers-dreamTitle: The Astronomer’s Dream
Country: France
Year: 1898
Director: Georges Méliès
Writer: Georges Méliès
Stars: Jeanne d’Alcy, Georges Méliès

The Astronomer’s Dream (original French title ‘La lune à un Mètre’) sees Georges Méliès developing a more elaborate style than is apparent in his earlier offerings.  It truly is a remarkable piece of film-making, and one of Méliès’s best. At over three minutes long Méliès achieves many of the impressive (for the time) special effects using his signature technique – substitution splicing. This method involved  using a cut to cause an object or person to appear, disappear, or transform into something else.

Brief Synopsis: An astronomer (dressed in what appears to be a wizard’s outfit) is seen studying in his observatory. Satan suddenly appears in the room but is ordered away by another supernatural creature – The Fairy Queen. The Fairy Queen then vanishes and the astronomer attempts  to see where she has gone using his telescope. The moon is seen growing to a giant size and eating the telescope, before disgorging two young children who begin dancing about. The astronomer throws the children back into the moon’s open mouth and tries to hit it with a broom, whereupon it vanishes from the room and appears back in the night sky.

The moon then assumes a crescent shape with an ethereal lady sitting inside it. The astronomer grabs a smaller telescope just as the moon lady appears in his room. He tries to grab her but she floats up to the ceiling. Another moon lady (wearing a moon shaped tiara – she is probably intended as a personification of the moon, though the Fairy Queen also wears this tiara)) appears in the crescent moon. The astronomer tries to grab her but the moon again appears inside his room and proceeds to eat him, before spitting out his body parts in a puff of smoke. The devil appears and attempts to pick up the astronomer’s dismembered corpse before again being ordered away by the Fairy Queen,  who reassembles the astronomer. The astronomer then wakes from his dream with his observatory back to normal.

See the film here –

 


devil_conventTitle: The Devil in a Convent / The Sign of the Cross (UK)
Country: France
Year: 1899
Director: Georges Méliès
Writer: Georges Méliès
Stars: Georges Méliès

As with The Astronomer’s Dream, The Devil in a Convent (French title Le Diable au Couvent) runs to over three minutes. Méliès himself plays the Devil in this rather entertaining film which seems to be intended as a parody of religion and monastic life.

Brief Synopsis:  Satan appears in a convent and disguises himself as a priest. He starts to preach to a group of nuns, then suddenly changes back into the devil frightening the nuns away. Using a magic cauldron he summons up an assortment of demons and together they cavort around the convent withstanding all attempts to expel them. Finally, a group of priests carrying crosses aided by a statue of St Michael which has come to life succeed in making Satan and his followers disappear.

See the film here –