Time is Power! Scorsese’s “Hugo”


Hugo is a film directed by Academy Award winner Martin Scorsese and was initially written as a graphic novel by Brian Selznick; this was titled “The invention of Hugo Cabret”. The film uses an extensive range of visual techniques in order to recreate the plot visually. Although Hugo is considered to be a children’s film, it has quite a complex meaning behind it and takes the audience on a magical adventure through the history of early film making.

Hugo is based on a young twelve year old boy named Hugo Cabret, who, after his father’s death began living in the walls of a train station, fixing clocks and gadgets. He gets himself involved in a mystery trying to find the heart-shaped key that fits into the automaton his father left him. With the help of an intelligent girl named Isabelle, Hugo goes on many adventures trying to fix and find the purpose of the automaton.

The scene is set in the early 1930s of Paris and is exaggerated through the use of contrasting colours, French themed music and computer generated imagery. Although the film is set in the early 1930s, it seems to be quite modern due to the expressionistic style Scorsese has incorporated throughout the movie. At the beginning of the film a sepia tone is used to set the early 1930s scene of Paris, this is then accompanied by French, orchestral themed music and helps set the mood.

There is something fascinating about the use of clocks as a recurring motif in the film. Hugo lives his life peering out from behind clocks. To Hugo, clocks are his life because they’re where he lives, where he works and where he connects to his father. Hugo realises that everything has a purpose. Clocks have individual parts to make it work and the world has people to do something; and for Hugo it was fixing things.

When Hugo was alone in the walls of the train station, the dull and dark colours around him denoted that he was sad and lonely. However, when Hugo was seen with other people like Isabelle the colours were bright and vibrant because Hugo was happy.

When George Melies (an old film director who now owns a toy booth in the film) tells Hugo and Isabelle about what the early film making days were like, the audience views his flashback memories. These flashbacks in the film appear with a vignette around the edges of the frame and the image is slightly blurred to give a dream-like effect. The use of this visual technique was effective as it  made me feel like I was apart of the flashback as well.

Hugo was a magical, intense and an engaging film that I personally liked. The concepts and themes explored in the film were effective in captivating its audience successfully throughout the whole film. The plot was unique and unusual compared to other movies that come under the adventure genre. I highly recommend this film to children and adults as it can be enjoyed from both perspectives.



One thought on “Time is Power! Scorsese’s “Hugo”

  1. A sophisticated and thoughtful review. You provide a little information about the plot, to get the reader interested, then provide a clear personal evaluation of aspects of the film – design, colour, ideas, and symbols. Your conclusion is very effective in its persuasiveness. Well done!

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