The father of Science Fiction in Films

This is not one of the usual entries that I upload about my studies. This entry is about a personal experience that I had today. Honestly, I am not sure if it is important that I write this in a blog that was meant only to archive the researches that I do and the news I find interesting, a blog that has the purpose of passing the information in case someone else finds it as interesting as I do. This is an experience that may (or may not) connect with someone else out there that feels identified with it, I want to share it though.

Today I watched Martin Scorsese’s Hugo, I know…I know.. what a lame way to start with the story, and even more, what a poor reason to start writing about a subject so meaningful as the creators of what we call now cinema. However, it is not because of him that I knew this part of the ‘History of cinema’, but this movie certainly reminded me of how wonderful it was the first time I watched some of Mèliés’s films.

A few years ago I was in a curse called Cinematographic Appreciation, because I wanted to know more about films, as I have been a passionate viewer since I was a child. Lots of movies have meant so much for me: have transported me into worlds that I never thought I could conceive. I even have learned from movies, things like: vocabulary in other languages, some traditions, stories, biographies (with proper reservations of course), I’ve seen strange landscapes and dreams within dreams. All of them have meant a lot to me. So…in this curse the teacher was explaining how the Lumière brothers had invented the cinematographer (if I remember the name correctly) with which they filmed their first movies like: The baby’s breakfast and the Train arriving to the Station. Then Mèliés, amazed by the invention, and having the idea of creating dazzling stories through the camera, decided to acquire the apparatus and work with it. The results were wonderful as he worked not only on the magic of the stage and the performances, but also in putting the frames in such an order that could create scenes that could not be conceived as real. He was working in the magic of cinema: special effects, camera positions, editing. A raw sort of post-production.

In this class we watched a few of his films, as they were around 8 to 10 minutes long, we could afford to watch more than ten. The ones that I remember the most were: Le Voyage dans la lune (Travel to the moon), Le mélomane (The music Lover) and Barbe Bleue (Blue Beard). For me those movies were a surprise, at that moment I felt excited, every part of my body was totally focused on receiving and feeling what the movie could transmit. I felt that I was like in a dream, totally engrossed with the images, and inlove with an odd sensation, alike when you see a baby trying its first steps or being born. I remember that when I was watching the film I was also thinking: how did he do that? Did he stopped the camera to change position? How long must that scene have taken him to film? What were his impulses to be so passionate as to create magic such as that?. After that class I never could watch films in the same way, even if I was not aware of it, I could appreciate more the work of the stage, the special effects and the construction of a film.

Today I got into the movie theatre to watch Hugo because I read in a newspaper that had wonderful images, I was not sure what was about. At first, the movie was just fine and the story was entertaining but, as it continued and started to describe a few moments of Mèliés’s history, I got more excited, to the point that I felt, not that I was watching a film, but that I was learning again about ‘the history’ that I want to be a part of, like when you hear stories from your parents about how your grandfather did something or met someone, it reminded me about the wonderful stages for which cinema has gone through and of how fortunate I am to be able to watch cinema and appreciate it from different points of view: there is the beauty of the old silent films, the tricky image symbolism of the ‘Nouvelle Vague Cinema’ movement, the technological revolutions that have played with the realism on the screen, the ‘auteurs’ that show us their world view, the grand scale productions that take us to different moments in history or help us to see wonderful and faraway landscapes, the ‘one dollar great story’ movies that move our hearts or compassion, the animation films that achieve what imagination creates in our dreams, the discovery of music in films as the hidden soundtrack of life, the colour inclusion on films that draw our attention a little bit more, and that nowadays is sometimes used to determine the intention of the film, the studies of human condition…There are so many characteristics of cinema that can be adored that if I continue listing them, I will get a text to be read in more than one day.

Remembering all these things, for someone that loves cinema, is like remembering your past, feeling part of something, acknowledging the first creations and, somehow, picturing the transition and transformation of one thing to another.  The images included in the film Hugo, for me, were like watching an album of something that excites me and that I gave for granted. The magic of cinema and the ability to always dream and believe in the impossible.

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