Let me just start by saying that everyone should see this movie! It is my new favorite, the best that I’ve seen so far this year. It’s a story with a message about finding and embracing one’s purpose and healing from brokenness, depicted through stunning, worth-while 3D visuals, accompanied by fantastic music and wonderful acting. It’s a movie for movie-lovers, full of praise for cinema as “the world of imagination.”
Based on the highly unique novel-and-picture book blend “The Invention of Hugo Cabret” by Brian Selznick, the story centers on the young orphaned protagonist Hugo, (Asa Butterfield), who is apprenticed to help keep the clocks running in a busy 1930s Parisian train station. On a quest to finish repairing the automaton he and his father used to tinker with together, Hugo gains a companion in the form of sophisticated-vocabulary-lover Isabelle, (Chloë Grace Moretz). Meanwhile, Isabelle’s godfather “Papa” Georges Méliès, (Ben Kingsley), is an angry, bitter old man inexplicably upset by the children’s endeavors.
One of the main themes in this film was purpose. Seen in a conversation over the yet-to-be-repaired Automaton:
Isabelle: It looks sad.
Hugo: I think he’s just waiting.
Isabelle: For what?
Hugo: To work again. To do what he’s supposed to do.
And later, more beautifully, in an exchange between Hugo and Isabelle about how they might need to “fix” Papa Méliès:
Hugo: Everything’s got a purpose, even machines. Clocks tell the time, trains take you places. Maybe that’s why broken machines make me so sad–they can’t do what they’re supposed to do. Maybe it’s the same with people–if you lose your purpose, it’s like you’re broken.
When Isabelle wonders aloud whether or not she might have a purpose, Hugo responds:
Machines never come with extra parts, you know? They always come with exactly the right amount of parts they need. So I thought, if the world was one big machine, I couldn’t be an extra part. I had to be here for some reason. And that means you have to be here for some reason too.
While there is no explicit mention of God, this metaphor of the world as a machine begs for a machine-maker, and Hugo’s assertion that everyone has a unique and necessary purpose is completely in line with scriptural passages such as 1 Corinthians 12:12-31, as well as being an inspirational sentiment. (How much more at peace might we all be if we spent more time earnestly seeking God’s purpose for us in the world, and less time chasing shallow goals to be admired and popular, or clambering to buy the products mass marketing has told us we need, or to fit the mold society has decided we should wear?)
Although this story is fictional, many of the events and characters referenced are historical, including Méliès himself. I found it quite interesting to read up about him and some of the other historical references after viewing the movie, (though you could always read up beforehand if you don’t mind spoilers).
This film is simply terrific. I was even impressed by the Station Inspector, (Sacha Baron Cohen), whom I had expected would be nothing more than a one-dimensional source of comic relief in the for of slapstick humor, but who surprised me with his depth and humanity. (Even the “bad guys” have a purpose!)
I will end with the same words that Méliès uses to introduce a viewing of his films, which highlight the imaginative participation of the audience, and may be how I need to kick off any home movie-watching parties I host in the future:
And now, I address you all as you are: Wizards! Mermaids! Travelers! Magicians! Come and dream with me.