A Nightmare (1896)

aka Le cauchemar
Article 4232 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 5-18-2013
Directed by Georges Melies
Cast unknown
Country: France
What it is: Very early trick film

A man dreams that a beautiful woman appears on his bed… but she turns into a minstrel and then a clown, and then things get weird.

One of Melies’s common motifs was of the innocent bystander (or, in this case, bysleeper) who is befuddled and put out by the transformations made possible by the use of special effects. This may be the first such example of this type of movie, as our sleeper is startled by the sudden appearance of a beautiful woman, who suddenly turns into a minstrel singer, and then a clown. Then the moon tries to eat his arm, so the sleeper has to punch the moon back to its proper place in the sky. It’s simple and short, and sets a template that he would return to several times. As such, it is historically one of his more important films, and it is quite entertaining in its own way as well.


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