George Méliès

film 23 of 70

Gulliver’s Travels Among the Lilliputians and the Giants

Film Review by Dean Duncan Jun 19, 2015

Beautiful! Note the delicate tinted colours, and the spatial planes provided by those exquisitely tooled flats. Here is that film history commonplace, in which the familiar narrative is severely truncated or abridged, because the producers assume that spectators will bring their fore or pre-knowledge to their production, and it fill in the cinematic gaps. Méliès seems gleefully unconcerned about those gaps, while rending what he does include with inspiring verve and dynamism.

As is so often the case, there are numerous formal or stylistic pleasures. The second scene/sequence features a superbly executed de facto split screen effect. The giant is composed below, and the littles spread across the frame above. You can see the join, but it is obviously a matter of theatricality, of presentation, and not of inadequacy. They are, after all, presenting this vigourous entertainment. He was, after all, still a magician. Of course it’s artificial!

They poke spears and such into Gulliver’s bottom. Comedy! Later, the whole Gulliver on the left/Lilliput on the right scene is wonderfully composed and paced. The fire in the background, extinguished by the seltzer bottle in the foreground, reads as capable staging in depth, and not at all as primitiveness.

Then comes the shock. As Gulliver goes to Brobdinag Méliès gives us an actual, bona fide close-up. Again, beautiful! I love how that shot goes on, and how the able and genial actors just chew gently on the scenery as it does so.

The last scene, with the pretty lady, doesn’t fully signify on screen. I assume it’s because they’re excising that scandalous part (Swift, Gulliver, pt. 2, ch. 1), which the informed can still feel free to consult, and then imagine.