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Méliès in America (V)

Le Voyage à travers l’impossible (An Impossible Voyage)

Georges Méliès, Star-Film, France, 1904

Like Le Voyage dans la lune (see Chapter 3), Le Voyage à travers (see also Figure R3.13) is a satire on delusions of scientific grandeur. This time, the scientists’ club is the Institute of Incoherent Geography, and the goal is the sun instead of the moon. The structure, however, is much like that of the earlier Voyage: Plans are unveiled and the travelers visit the foundry where their transportation is being readied; they take off, reach their goal, and survive by dint of their leader’s magical resourcefulness; forced to return to earth, they make a safe landing at sea and are celebrated for their accomplishment. The story is divided into four parts, each featuring a different mode of transportation—a train (here colliding with a railway station), a car, another train, and a fanciful combination submarine-dirigible. Action plays as prominent a role as spectacle, and Méliès pulls out more stops in achieving the illusion of continuity across space: the scene culminating in the crash shown here involves a miniature model, a life-size stage prop with one side cut away, and a three-dimensional actual-size station. The collision of a car with a cabin in the mountains is composed of crosscut interior and exterior shots (albeit overlapping), but as always in Méliès, the image of the crash reveals more than a mere penchant for slapstick: like most of Méliès would-be discoverers, these travelers destroy many real and useful objects in their quest for knowledge of dubious practical value.

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