The Impossible Voyage

The Impossible Voyage (French: Voyage à travers l’impossible), originally released in the US as An Impossible Voyage and in the UK as Whirling the Worlds, is a 1904 French silent film directed by Georges Méliès. Based in part on Jules Verne’s play Journey Through the Impossible and modeled in style and format on Méliès’s earlier, highly successful A Trip to the Moon, the film is a satire of scientific exploration in which a group of geographers attempt a journey into the interior of the sun.

The Plot

Since the film is silent and has no intertitles, the proper names and quotations below are taken from the English-language description of the film published by Méliès in the catalog of the Star Film Company’s New York Branch.

A geographic society called the Institute of Incoherent Geography plans to make a world tour in such a way as to “surpass in conception and invention all previous expeditions undertaken by the learned world.” At a meeting headed by President Polehunter, “assisted by Secretary Rattlebrain, by the Archivist Mole, by the Vice-president Humbug, the members of the office, Easily-fooled, Daredevil, Schemer, etc., etc.,” the members listen to Professor Daredevil’s plan for the world tour, but reject it for being out-of-date. The president then welcomes the eccentric engineer Crazyloff (in French, Mabouloff; “maboul” is French for “crazy” or “crackpot”), who explains his project for a new “impossible” voyage, using “all the known means locomotion—railroads, automobiles, dirigible balloons, submarine boats…” The unusual plan is accepted enthusiastically, and preparations begin.

When work is complete, the machines and travelers are loaded onto a train and are sent to the Swiss Alps, where the travelers will begin their journey. The first board an automobile, the Auto-Crazyloff, and journey through the mountains. In an attempt to run over the summit of the Rigi, the travelers crash at the bottom of a precipice. They are saved by mountaineers and rushed to a Swiss hospital.

After they have recovered, they board a train with their vehicles, and make a second attempt at running over a summit: this time, the Jungfrau. Getting higher and higher every minute, with dirigible balloons attached to the train, they rise into space and are swallowed by the Sun. The travelers land with a crash. They are happy to be alive, but the heat is too much. All but one of the travelers are loaded into an icebox but are suddenly frozen. The remaining traveler, Crazyloff himself, finds a bundle of straw among the debris and starts a fire to melt the ice. The travelers thaw and are happily moved over to the expedition’s submarine, which is launched off a cliff on the Sun, plummets through space, and falls into an ocean on Earth.

After a few minutes of underwater travel, a boiler problem causes the submarine to explode. The travelers are thrown up into the air, landing safely at a seaport amid the wreckage of the submarine. They return in triumph to the Institute of Incoherent Geography, where a grand rejoicing is held for them.

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