See the moving picture

FIGURE 3.27

The Libidinal Booster Shot

Le Voyage dans la lune (A Trip to the Moon)

Georges Méliès, Star-Film, France, 1902

The Desire to Blast Off (top left)  Desire in the world of Méliès’ scientific wizards is not entirely one-dimensional. Sexual desire, for example, is not precisely the same thing as the desire to conquer space, but both forms project themselves in dreams, and both have their source in the libido. It should come as no surprise, then, that history’s most monumental discharge—a rocket shot to the moon—should require some preliminary assistance from a chorus line of bare-legged beauties.

More Sightings of Heavenly Bodies (top right)  In both L’Éclipse du soleil en pleine lune and Le Voyage dans la lune, Méliès’ motley crews of would-be scientists can’t quite overcome the libidinous desires and habits of the stargazers and magicians from whom they’re descended. Science may lead them to believe that they’re working to gain power over the physical universe, but their imaginations betray their thaumaturgic heritage and the timeless desire to conjure up women at will.

Conquest by Wish Fulfillment (bottom left)  As soon as Méliès’ adventurers begin to explore the Moon, they’re attacked by Moon Men. For magicians, fortunately, making the enemy disappear calls for the same arsenal of tricks required to make anything else disappear: a blow from an umbrella, followed by the cinematic legerdemain of stop motion, a puff of stage smoke, and the substitution trick, make this bit of instantaneous wish fulfillment no more difficult than getting to the Moon in the first place.

What Must Go Up . . . (bottom right)  If a rocket to the Moon must be shot upwards in defiance of gravity, at least gravity can be expected to help in getting it back home. The adventurers escape capture by the Moon Men and race back to their ship, which is, fortunately, teetering on the brink of the Moon’s surface. The president of the Astronomers’ Club grabs a rope that has apparently been attached to the cone of the ship in case of just such an emergency, and, just as one last Moon Man grabs hold of the capsule, he tips it from the precipice and rides it downward, toward earth and a soft ocean landing.

Back to CHAPTER 3/Part 2