his image is a still from the 1902 movie “Le Voyage dans la Lune” by Georges Méliès, who is considered an innovative illusionist and director in French cinema. “A Trip to the Moon” is his most iconic work featuring various special effects and involving an exceptionally big crew and budget.

This picture depicts the astronomer’s red, bullet shaped rocket planted in the moon’s surface, or more accurately it’s eye. The moon prop namely seems to consist of a round wooden sign with a gap in which an actor’s head inserts like a mask. Both sign and face are painted and decorated with sculpted craters. Méliès made an interesting artistic choice to literally give the moon a face, and so turning it into a character. In fact, the moon is the antagonist of the movie, being targeted and explored as a subject of research by the astronomers.

The white frame with indentations and strips of other pictures show that this is a roll of film. In the movie scene we first see the moon with an evil smile expression, accentuated by dark lip and eyebrow makeup, grow bigger in the frame, as if the camera is getting closer. Then in the blink of an eye the rocket appears to be torpedoed into the moon, upon which the moonface starts crying and making ugly faces. With this iconic image the scene fades to the next, showing the astronauts exiting the rocket and exploring the surface.

It must be noted that the movie was originally shot on black and white film and the frames were later hand-coloured. So the image is intricately layered in space and material:

  • A manually painted print,
    • of a picture shot on black and white film,
      • of an actor in the moon face mask,
        • between wooden cloud props,
          • on an illuminated set,
            • on a backdrop.