A Trip to the Moon
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Politics and Activism

A Trip to the Moon

Watching a silent film turned into an extension of my English class discussions.

A Trip to the Moon

The end of my semester just wrapped up, and in an act of much-needed self care last week, I allowed myself my first Netflix binge in months. Instead of binging, though, I ended up watching only one thing: a fifteen-minute silent film.

A Trip to the Moon is a 1902 French film written, directed, and produced by Georges Méliès. Its cover photo provided by Netflix was strange -- what looked like a bullet lodged into the eyeball on the face of a distressed moon. Still, when I came across it, I expected a cute story with with quirky complications and a happy ending. What I actually discovered was something more than that.

In a strange turn of events, themes discussed in my British literature classes this semester (the ones I was seeking a break from) conveniently revealed themselves to me. In a stranger turn of events, I loved every minute of it.

At its surface, the film in its hand-painted color version is a visually fascinating tale of a group of astronomers who successfully travel to the moon and return again. A few more levels down, however, the film is highly satirical in its criticism of logical/scientific reasoning and colonialism.

It's obvious thatA Trip to the Moon is far from realism. The astronomers wear robes that make them look like wizards, and their manner of being shot to the moon in a cannon and their lack of spacesuits when they arrive are highly implausible.

These instances seem to instead be a mockery of the sciences, which depend on an oversimplified system logic that perhaps defines the world as something more black-and-white than it really is. In this sense, the brilliant colors used in the hand-painted version seem to be the perfect contrast for the concept under attack.

Before the astronomers take off, they look out over an urban landscape: a field of smokestack factories that could serve as a poster child for the Industrial Revolution. As they observe, they seem to admire it, perhaps believing it to be a symbol of their society's "progress."

However, the pollution from the smoke is clearly rampant, and vegetative life, something that their lives as humans more immediately depend on, is practically nonexistent.

When they arrive on the moon, they, like colonists, find themselves in an unfamiliar environment, and the "aliens" they encounter on the moon are characterized as strange and animalistic, much like colonist descriptions of native peoples in Africa and the Americas.

They find that the moon's natives are easily killed with force, and the possibility for the viewer deriving any tragic notion from this is minimized by their explosion into puffs of pink smoke on impact. When they return home, also like colonists, they bring with them a captive alien, receive excessive praise for their discoveries, and a statue is erected in their honor.

However, it is clear that humans, even the most logical ones, are not the most powerful entities in this narrative. As they sleep, personified stars watch over them. Gods and goddesses also observe them without their knowledge. The moon itself is alive, as depicted in the initial landing scene. They cause the moon great pains as they soar directly into its eye, seeming to be more of a blight to the universe than the triumphant heroes they make themselves out to be.

If there's anything that we can learn from this, I think it's that the world is not as simple as we'd like to believe, and we're not as powerful or noble as we think we are.

True art serves as a guide for knowing truth, beauty, and where to draw the line. It can also become an early drawing board for future scientific experiments and discoveries. After all, A Trip to the Moon is a 1902 film -- what happened several decades later?

Still, there are consequences when societies believe themselves to be the most powerful and the most intelligent in existence. Works like A Trip to the Moon do their best to keep our egos in check.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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