I took my kids to see the movie Hugo and was fascinated by so much of the movie, but one of the elements that stood out, was insight into the 1902 film Le Voyage dans La Lune (A Trip to the Moon), written and directed by Georges Méliès. A silent film with cutting edge effects for the time, it is widely considered to be the first Science Fiction film
I thought so.
Then, today I ran across a mention of 1929’s Frau im Mond (Woman in the Moon) written and directed by Fritz Lang. Another silent film sci-fi effort (the moon was a popular destination in these early films, huh?). Upon reading the plot, I was surprised to learn that there was a pivotal romance involved. A love triangle, no less! So I went on a search.
What was the first Science Fiction Romance film?
(fun trivia for Woman in the Moon: it apparently introduced the first use of the countdown for ship launches)
Reading up on the history of Science Fiction film, it seems that while US movies focused on the SF classics with action and horror, many of the European ones included romance. Given that older films have deteriorated, been lost, and this search of mine hasn’t been exhaustive, it’s still difficult to pin down the first SFR movie.
Several early SF films are of note for their inclusion of romance. One is Aelita (or Aelita: Queen of Mars. 1924) from Russia. The intrepid young hero leads a revolt on Mars and the Queen falls in love with him.
But in answering my own question, deciding on the first SFR movie, it turns out difficult to pinpoint because so much has been lost. Plot outlines aren’t available, the film has deteriorated, but an earlier Fritz movie is a perfect representative for the first SFR film. Metropolis (1927), a dystopian featuring a division of class. This futuristic setting casts our wealthy hero and our working class heroine on opposite ends of society. This is a sci-fi film with action, social commentary, and even a robot impersonating a human. And yet, the romance is pivotal to the plot. It creates the inciting event, it furthers the action, and it helps resolve the ending conflict. This is a true Science Fiction Romance.
(Author Rae Lori gives her impressions of the movie on her own blog, calling it “SFR at its finest.”)
(And wait a sec, another side note here. 2026 is only 14 years away. Where’s my robot double?)
Where does this leave me? Besides in hopes to see Metropolis at a film festival if I’m lucky? It leaves me with an appreciation for how these early movies accepted relationships as a crucial element in a SF story.
And a new-found appreciation for the era of silent films.
Her Science Fiction Romance, Desert Blade is coming soon from Carina Press. Currently available SFR: Silver Bound, Jaq’s Harp, Braided Silk & Firestorm on E’Terra