Saturday, 16 August 2014

1896: The Nightmare (Georges Melies)

Only a year after the invention of cinema and the Lumiere brothers' work is already starting to look dull and old fashioned. who else could be responsible but Georges Melies?
His "Voyage to the Moon" from a few years later is of course an iconic film of the period, but I must admit I was surprised to find that he'd entered the game so early, and with his style already so well defined. After just a few months of filming Lumiere-style 'actualities', he's already discovered the trick of stopping the camera to substitute something or someone in the scene, making it appear that a sudden magical transformation has taken place. It's still clunky in this early effort, but the seeds of his later masterpieces are already starting to bear fruit.    
In The Nightmare, A man sleeps in an odd bath-shaped bed, in front of a backdrop that presumably is meant to represent his bedroom, but as he dreams the backdrop changes to a castle balcony, and he encounters, in quick succession, a seductive woman, a blacked-up minstrel and a clown, who take turns taunting and teasing him. In a moment that still feels weirdly creepy, and must have really put the wind up sensitive audience members in 1896, the moon come down to his balcony and tries to bite off his hand.  
Melies' impish wit is already much in evidence, and it looks like he's playing the lead himself here, as he often did - and enjoying himself immensely.