Using every known means of transportation, several savants from the Geographic Society undertake a journey through the Alps to the Sun which finishes under the sea. Written by
Erik Gregersen <email@example.com>
In 1895, a stage magician named Georges Méliès witnessed how the Lumière brothers changed the history of entertainment when he attended the first public screening of their projected motion pictures, and was marveled at the idea of moving images. Seven years and dozens of short films later, Méliès was a successful filmmaker on his own account, releasing a movie that would become legendary, "Le Voyage Dans La Lune" ("A Trip to the Moon"), a monumental achievement in which he would finally prove that cinema was more than documentaries and "gimmick films", and that there was something that the Lumières couldn't see: that it was a natural medium for telling stories. So, after having great success with "Le Voyage Dans La Lune", Méliès prepared his next major project as another adaptation of a Jules Verne story: "Le Voyage à Travers l'impossible", or "The Voyage Through the Impossible".
Better known as "The Impossible Voyage", "Le Voyage à Travers l'impossible" is the story of a geographic society (presumably French), which decides to make the ultimate trip. As one can imagine, this won't be a normal voyage, as they will use every vehicle they can use in an attempt to travel across every corner of the world. So, with this in mind, they prepare a train at the Swiss Alps with their advanced machinery and begin their journey. However, first they must arrive to the train, so they use "The Impossible Carriage" to get across the mountains, and after several difficulties, manage to get to the train. With their specially equipped train, the group manages to fly high in the sky, and are literally swallowed by the Sun. The group will face more difficulties, as their voyage will take them to many fantastic places, from the Sun to even the bottom of the Ocean.
The film's source, "Le Voyage à Travers l'impossible", was a play written collaboratively by Jules Verne and French dramatist Adolphe d'Ennery in 1882, in which the writers adapted to stage the style and themes that Verne had been used in his popular novels. Naturally, Méliès' adaptation lacks the benefits of having dialogs, but his version of "The Impossible Voyage" does keep the same atmosphere of Jules Verne's literary work, capturing the spirit of science fiction in each act of the film and mixing it with that magical fantasy and charmingly whimsical humor that Méliès used to employ in each one of his films. With a runtime of only 24 minutes (something unheard of at the time of its release), "The Impossible Voyage" shows a progression of what Méliès did in "A Trip to the Moon", as the narrative is built in a tighter way (despite the similarities with that previous masterpiece).
As usual in a film by Georges Méliès, the real magic of the movie lays in the extremely clever and detailed way in which Méliès creates his special effects, and in the beautiful art direction he uses to make his fantasy come alive. The world of "The Impossible Voyage" seems like a more detailed trip to the same universe of "A Trip to the Moon", where insanely courageous scientists and inventors use their wonderful and crazy machines to conquer the limits of their fantastic world. In this there's a difference with Verne, as while in the writer's novels there's always a certain factuality in his devices, Méliès versions have more of magical than scientific, which goes perfectly with the comedic tone he uses in his adventure films. A magician until the end, Méliès creates wonderful special effects using every single photographic trick he had discovery at the time (there's a wonderful use of miniatures in the movie).
While the legendary classic "Le Voyage Dans La Lune" is certainly an iconic masterpiece (it'll always be Méliès' most famous work), personally I found "Le Voyage à Travers l'impossible" to be a superior film. Maybe it was that I saw it hand-tinted (which gives it an even more beautiful look) or the fact that it gave me the feeling that in this movie Méliès just let his creativity run completely free, but I just enjoyed this one (a bit) more. True, it's a bit tacky for our standards, but even today it holds up surprisingly well and remains as fun as when it was originally done, more than a century ago. "Le Voyage à Travers l'impossible", or "The Impossible Voyage", definitely makes a perfect companion piece to "Le Voyage Dans La Lune", and it's a nice introduction to the magic of Georges Méliès, the Cinemagician.
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