Magic! As never seen before: “Hugo”

Academy Award winner Martin Scorsese brings a new direction from his typical style of film making in the 2011 movie, Hugo. It emanates adventure, drama, mystery, and the love for the magic of cinema. The captivating and original movie follows the heart of an innocent, young Hugo, who, well, fixes things and even people. Hugo is a moving tale, recommended to all who love a good mystery combined with a subtle love story.

Hugo, acted very well by Asa Butterfield, is the main protagonist of the film. Although he is an orphan, Hugo surely, throughout the story, has a gentle, warm heart and, a longing for his father. Hugo’s father was a watchmaker, and Hugo himself develops the love for machinery too. He inhabits the hidden tunnels and passageways of a train station in Paris, to manage the station’s clocks. He lives in fear of the vigilant station inspector, as he thinks of Hugo as a menace. From the clockwork, Hugo learns an extremely important message. He depicts Paris as a machine. If in a machine, all the pieces have a role, then he must have a role too. Hugo couldn’t be an extra part.  And so, after realizing how magnificent he is at fixing things, Hugo finds his true role in the world; to fix people. These moral thoughts drive Hugo on an adventure through the streets of Paris. In the film, Hugo’s central quest is to repair a mysterious 19th – century automaton, which his father bought from a museum. The automaton has a secret message, which could yet spell out his future.

Early in the film, we are introduced to George Méliès (acted by Ben Kingsley). George Méliès is initially a shop keeper for a toy store in the train station. Hugo is very curious and interested with the items of the shop, however, George Méliès, also with the station inspector, despises Hugo. Then, Hugo meets George’s god-daughter, Isabelle, who is filled with information about the shop keeper, George Méliès, but she may not know it all. Apparently, George Méliès has a past, which Hugo finds intriguing and mysterious. Along with Isabelle, Hugo is determined to find out more about him and to even lighten up George Méiès; to fix him, which is very well, Hugo’s role in the world. Isabelle is a Dickens fan, and she and Hugo discover the careers of the Lumière brothers, who put up the first movie in 1985 in Paris. Then, the pair discovers an unexpected history of George Méliès. After watching the film, I realised that George Méliès was actually a real person. He was a French illusionist and film maker, born in 1861. He had a very similar passion to Martin Scorsese’s version of the young George Méliès, which we find out through the use of voice over and flashback scenes later in the film. Martin Scorsese adopted the real George Méliès in the film, Hugo.

Through the use of film techniques, Martin Scorsese captures the audience’s attention. He draws them into the film, as if they were a character witnessing the whole scene, like a complex sort of magic. The film explores the magic and love for cinema, and the preservation of movies. The film is set in Paris; however, Martin Scorsese exaggerates the wonders of the city, especially in the first scene, where the viewer gets an outlook of Paris in an expressionistic style, as the camera swoops down onto a busy railway station. Then, the camera focuses of Hugo, peering out of the figure 4, of the station’s clocks.  The images of Paris do not show how Paris was in the 30’s. Martin Scorsese has taken reality and twisted it around so that Paris is filled with twinkling lights and magical buildings. However, this was not the case in such times. I personally like how he did this, as it allows Martin Scorsese to possibly show how he’d imagined or liked Paris to appear, and it even allows him to show off his understanding of editing techniques in the film. The music in the film also sets the scene finely. Martin Scorsese purposely chose French orchestral music to play throughout the film, to emphasise the location.

Through the use of film techniques such as camera angles, lighting and editing techniques, Martin Scorsese develops strong metaphors in the film. These were generally constructed through motifs and memorable quotes. A motif in the film are Hugo’s shining, bright eyes. Although when Hugo is in the gloomiest, scariest places, or whether he is in a dangerous consequence, his deep blue eyes stand out and symbolize hope. To strengthen this, Hugo is depicted to feel more comfortable when he is around others. Martin Scorsese shows this through lighting. Low-key lighting when he is alone contrasts with high-key lighting when he is with others. Hugo is very intelligent in the film. He uses unforgettable and meaningful quotes, which he refers to when he is in doubt. My favourite quote is, “If the entire world was one big machine, I couldn’t be an extra part. I have to be here for a reason. That means you have to be here for a reason too.” Hugo expresses these thoughts when he is managing the clocks with Isabelle. And so, through this, Hugo and Isabelle have an exciting experience on their endeavours to find Isabelle’s role in the world.

Hugo is an exuberant story, which explores the magic and love for cinema, and the preservation of cinema for future generations. It develops nearly real characters, and allows the viewer to feel a part of the film. Martin Scorsese expresses his thoughts of the city of Paris and brings them to life in the film through the use of metaphors and motifs. And so, with a fantastic story and a fairy tale ending, the children’s film is designed also for grown-ups.


Film score: 4.5 out of 5

One thought on “Magic! As never seen before: “Hugo”

  1. A mature and effective review. Your use of language is becoming more and more sophisticated. You show great depth of understanding of the ideas of the film, and how Scorsese has created this world to convey his ideas, and you present this understanding with a strong personal voice that reveals your opinion. Well done!

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