Georges Méliès

The birth of the auteur

Author: Elizabeth Ezra

Georges Méliès is universally acknowledged to be an early film Pioneer. However, his work has often been dismissed as simplistic, both narratively and technically. This book primarily aims is to give an idea of the complexity and the modernity of his work. It also aims to dispel a number of myths about Méliès's contribution to film history. For a long time, Méliès's work was cited as the foremost example of 'primitive mode of representation'; films made before around 1906 were characterized by four traits. These are 'autarky and unicity of each frame', or framing that is selfcontained and unchanged throughout the scene; 'the noncentered quality of the image', or the use of the edges of the frame as well as the centre; 'consistent medium long-shot camera distance'; and the 'nonclosure' of the narrative. The book examines individual scenes of some of his films using a model of structural analysis designed for narrative films. It outlines the technical function of the major special effects, or trues, used by Méliès. The book also considers Méliès's treatment of the relationship between fantasy and realism, first by examining a selection of films that explicitly thematize representation, and then by discussing several of the actualités reconstituées. It examines the ways in which Méliès's films blur the boundary between realism and illusion, by examining first a selection of trick films. This examination is followed by several actualités reconstituées or early docu-dramas, culminating in an extended discussion of Méliès's most influential L'Affaire Dreyfus/The Dreyfus Affair.

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