“Our Heavenly Bodies” AKA “A Trip to the Planets” AKA “Wunder der Schöpfung” ,which actually means Wonder of the Creation, was released in 1925 and was directed by Hanns Walter Kornblum (animated scenes), Johannes Meyer and Rudolf Biebrach. It is a silent German educational film written by Hanns Walter Kornblum and Ernst Krieger. The film basically represents everything known about the cosmos at the time including the Solar System the development of astronomy, the laws of physics and how it all works together. It even includes anything known outside the solar system such as nebulas and galaxies.
The German call it a “Kulturfilm” or culture film. It is the predecessor of the modern documentary. It uses the idea of traveling into space via a space ship to witness all the wonders of the universe. This type of educational forum was used by Carl Sagan in his television series Cosmos: A Personal Voyage 1980 and again by Neil deGrasse Tyson in his rendition “Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey” 2014.
The film uses a variety of special effects of the time including animation, matte painting, color tinting, stop motion and forced perspective. The endeavor took two years to make. The film is presented in seven acts.
1) On the Way to Truth (German: Auf dem Weg zur Wahrheit): A lengthy lecture of the history of man’s discovery of the cosmos from discovery that the Earth is round to gravity. 2) The Night Sky (German: Der nächtliche Himmel): This section discusses the moon, constellations and other heavenly bodies seen at night from the Earth such as meteors and comets. 3) The Star of Day (German: Das Gestirn des Tages): Section three talks about the sun including auroras, eclipses and sun spots. 4) A Flight to the Moon (German: Ein Flug zum Mond): This is the section that introduces the space ship where we take a trip to the moon. 5) The Sun's Children (German: Der Sonne Kinder): Continuing on the space ship the travelers visit the other planets in the solar system and learn a little about them. 6) At the Gates of Infinity (German: An den Toren der Unendlichkeit): Leaving the solar system the travelers experience space away from the sun’s gravity. Zero gravity, spacetime, and information about the Milky Way are explained. 7) Becoming and Waning in Outer Space (German: Werden und Vergehen im Weltenraum): At this point we have reached the edge of the Milky Way. The lecture then goes back in time to describe the creation of Earth. There is some combination of secular and religious dogma but this is 1925 Germany so it’s to be expected.
There are several versions of the film out there. One is a seventeen minute truncated film that only covers the flight to the moon and the visit to the planets up to Mars. It has English intertitles, but it has a lot of them. It will give you a taste of what the film is about. That one is called “A Trip to the Planets”.
There is also the original film that has been wonderfully restored and is as complete as I’ve ever seen. It’s beautiful and fascinating to watch. The only drawback is that it is has the German intertitles but if you can read German then this is the one you want to watch. Even if you don't understand German this one is a beautiful visual experience.
The third version is a presentation done by Grand Valley State University in Michigan. Every year they have a celebration of space exploration called “Roger That”. It is in honor of Roger B. Chaffee. Roger was an astronaut from Michigan who died in the Apollo 1 fire during a launch rehearsal test. The 2021 conference was done virtually. In one of the presentations they showed “Our Heavenly Bodies” accompanied by organ music. There is a ten minute intermission between the explanation of the heavens and the space ship adventure. There are also a few little glitches and skips in it so it’s not as perfect as the original German version, but it does have English intertitles and it is complete.
A trip to the planets