Hugo by Martin Scorsese has a sweet lingering effect that lasts for long after the movie is over. I felt that the movie unfolds in two layers – emotional turbulence that the protagonist Hugo Cabret, a twelve year old boy goes though after losing his Father in an accident and how he figures out a way to stay connected with his Father; The other one is the tale of Georges Méliés, played by Ben Kingsley to perfection ...an illusionist & a genius film-maker of the silent era whose art became a victim of World War I and he lives an ordinal life of a toy-store owner in the station. Both stories are very similar in the sense that it is of losing what mattered most to these individuals and finding it in the course of time...and through this chronicle how Georges and Hugo find each other.
The movie flows in a very languid meandering pace, in a black & white set-up which adds to the intended effect that is beautifully captured. Hugo lives in a station after his Father’s death with an alcoholic not-so-kind Uncle. I found the ‘living in station’ very symbolic – there’s chaos outside him and there’s chaos within. And in the midst of this chaos he struggles to stay connected with his Father with whom he shares the love for machines and tools; a broken automaton, a notebook (which holds the key to make the automaton functional) are the only legacy that his Father has left behind, so making it up & running is his soul objective and for that he is ready to go to any length, even steal parts from the toy-store of the station which is owned by Georges Méliés leading a covert life. One fine day, Hugo gets caught, and his Notebook is taken away by Georges...and then starts Hugo’s discovery of people around him and feelings apart from the ones he experienced with his Father.
At this point we are introduced to Georges’ god-daughter Isabelle, who is a bright positive influence in Hugo’s sad World...she is there when Hugo needs her, and I must add I loved her pedantic affectation....when Hugo was crying, she offers her handkerchief and says “Sydney Carton cries and Heathcliff too. In books they're crying all the time.” ... how beautifully ‘A tale of two cities’ and ‘Wuthering Heights’ drawn so simply. Hugo is able to make the automaton functional through a heart-shaped key that Isabelle has, and the key question comes – why would the automaton which belonged to Hugo’s Father function with the key that Isabelle has?! And so it leads Hugo and Isabelle to another World where Papa Georges used to weave dreams though movies, and how his dreams were melted into chemicals due to the war. Hugo figures out a way with help from Isabelle to locate some of his work, and relive the old glory that Georges Méliés had once experienced, with his wife Jeanne.
Talking about Hugo would not be complete without mentioning the quirky station-master Gustav who is in a perpetual search for orphans in the station and pack them off to orphanage, which is presumably not a pleasant place for the kids, and of course his dog Maximilian (the imposing name actually elucidates the character of the dog!). A beautiful sequence is one where Isabelle defends Hugo from the station master, when they were trying to avoid him but could not.
[Hugo and Isabelle are walking in the station trying to avoid the station inspector, he spots them]
Inspector Gustav: You two, halt! Come here!
[they turn and walk over to the inspector]
Isabelle: Good day, monsieur.
Inspector Gustav: Where are your parents?
Isabelle: I work with my Papa Georges, at the toy booth. Surely you've seen me there before? And this is my cousin from the country, Hugo.
[the inspectors dog sniffs Hugo]
Isabelle: You'll have to forgive him, he's quite simple minded, doltish really. Poor thing.
[the inspectors dog barks at Hugo and the inspector looks suspiciously at Hugo]
Inspector Gustav: Seems Maximilian doesn't like the cut of your jibling man. He is disturbed by your physiognomy. He is upset by your visage. Why would he not like your face? Hey?
Isabelle: Well, perhaps he smells my cat.
Inspector Gustav: Cat?
Isabelle: Yes. Christina Rossetti is her name, after the poetess. Would you like me to recite? 'My heart is like a singing bird, whose nest is in a watered shoot. My heart is like an apple tree, whose boughs are bent with thickset...'
Inspector Gustav: Alright! Alright! I know the rest. That's enough poetry for today. I love poetry, particularly that poem by Christina...
Inspector Gustav: Yes, she's one of my favorites. I know it's Rossetti! I know it's Rossetti. I love poetry, just not in the station. We're here to either get on trains, get off them or work in different shops. Is that clear?
Isabelle: Yes, sir.
Inspector Gustav: Watch your step. Go on. Go!
The thought behind the movie is beautifully summed up by Hugo – “I'd imagine the whole world was one big machine. Machines never come with any extra parts, you know. They always come with the exact amount they need. So I figured if the entire world was one big machine... I couldn't be an extra part. I had to be here for some reason.”
One should watch this movie...because there are times when we forget to dream, we forget that happiness is a way of life, we forget that adventure is not only in climbing mountains or in sky-diving; it is there in everyday life...we just need our six senses to experience them.