My favorite movie that I have never seen. Not the whole way through anyway, I saw the first two-thirds or so, because that was all there was on the print that my teacher had.
"Forsaken On the Moon, How Will We Breathe?" was filmed between 1925 and 1928 by a group of French nuns. The film never made it out of the abbey apparently, until 1981 when it was found in a storeroom by Sister Maria Francescka Signerot, who showed it to a professor friend of hers from the University of Paris. Parts of the film were eventually restored, though it must have been in very bad condition, because the excerpt that I saw had lots of scratches and water or mold stains, and some melted bits.
The film was made during a time of profound excitement about the scientific and technological advances of the burgeoning 20th century. The nuns somehow managed to combine this open-minded futurism with a very traditional Catholic mysticism, resulting in an artwork that pays homage to both while standing as something of an anomaly in itself.
The movie is silent, and does not even make use of the title cards common to silent films. The film of course is black and white, but most of the second half has animation drawn directly onto the frames, sometimes obscuring and sometimes interacting with the live-action footage. I would not be surprised if the nuns had seen the animation of Georges Méliès or Winsor McCay, because the animation style and subject matter seems heavily influenced by both of them.
The beginning of the film jumps back and forth between three different time periods, showing the martyrdoms of Joan of Arc and two other unidentified girls - one is killed by lions in the Roman Coliseum, the other is murdered near Stonehenge (possibly St. Dymphna?). After all of the maidens are sufficiently martyred, the film cuts to a shot of outer space (black fabric with pinpricks of bright light shining through) where the three girls are seen floating in glass bubbles. The bubbles eventually land on the moon, the surface of which is smooth and looks like marble. The glass shatters and the three martyrs fall to the ground. Their actions indicate that the air on the moon is very thin, and though they can breathe, they are having a hard time of it. The girls become weaker and weaker, and as they grow languid and faint they start to dream.
At this point the animation begins to come in. It is unclear sometimes which of the following events actually happen and which are just dreamt. Gigantic flowers sprout from the moon's surface, and tangle around the sleeping maidens like some kind of Victorian garden fantasy. Dipping in and out of the blossoms are bumble bees, and here in the film is the only instance of text appearing - a cursive script wavers over the scene announcing "We are the moon bees, the souls of unborn children" in French (my teacher's translation).
The girls are woken by the bees and for some reason they are either angry at the bees or frightened of them. The three martyrs transform themselves into damselflies, wings sprout from their shoulders and their legs and arms become fragile insect appendages, but they keep their human faces, albeit with antennae. The damselflies, equiped with glowing swords, begin to fight with the bees, who have their stingers. Shortly after the fighting commences however, the Virgin Mary appears and holds up her rosary. The warriors of both armies are instantly abashed and remorseful, and the damselflies drop their swords.
This is all of the film that I have seen.