Archive for Conquest of the South Pole

On The Whiteness

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , on January 30, 2012 by dcairns

“And now we rushed into the embraces of the cataract, where a chasm threw itself open to receive us. But there arose in our pathway a shrouded human figure, very far larger in its proportions than any dweller among men. And the hue of the skin of the figure was of the perfect whiteness of the snow.”

Words from The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym by Edgar Allan Poe.

Image from THE CONQUEST OF THE SOUTH POLE by Georges Melies. Given Le Grand Melies’ habit of adapting Verne, with a dash of uncredited HG Wells, it doesn’t seem impossible that Poe was on his mind while knocking up this caper. It may have been the first Melies I ever saw, extracted in a Killiam compilation screened on TV. I think I already knew about KING KONG and stop-motion animation, so it was fascinating to see a giant monster produced using the technique a child (or naive adult) might assume had been used on the big gorilla: a bunch of people piled together in a suit.

Well, Melies’ monster is more like a machine than a costume, the support structure and apparatus being more important than the human element.

Interestingly, despite what might seem my relative sophistication at the time, I don’t think I grasped the implications of the Ice Giant being mostly concealed below the horizon line: I assumed Melies had constructed the entire creature from head to toe. Also, I didn’t question the strange perspectival implications of his arising from beyond the vanishing point.