Sunday, March 11, 2012

Hugo: A Film Review by S and K Taylor

Each month I publish a film review, for Touchstone (the New Zealand Methodist magazine). Here is the review for February 2012, on the movie Hugo. I wrote this with one of the kids – it seems appropriate for a children’s movie, provides variety for the audience and is a very good growth opportunity for a child.

“Time is of the essence.”

The movie begins with time, with the orphaned Hugo, tending the many clocks of a Paris railway station. Forced to age through trauma and tragedy, abandoned by his drunken uncle, Hugo lives with two precious things. One, a broken automaton, the other a notebook in which Hugo’s clock maker father has described his dreams for the automaton’s repair.

Hugo is aided by Isabelle, also orphaned, who lives with her godparents, one of whom (Papa Georges) works at Hugo’s station. Together they will unravel the past, discuss the present and change the future. She introduces Hugo to books, while he, despite her misgivings – “This might be an adventure, and I’ve never had one before, outside of books” – introduces her to movies.

Ironically the movie “Hugo” is based on a book, “The Invention of Hugo Cabret” by Brian Selznick. The book is beautiful, the story told mainly through black and white pictures. Similarly the movie adaptation favours sounds and images, with any dialogue sparing.

The cinematography is stunning. Highlights are the lights of Paris that blend into a machine-like beauty, the steam that illuminates the twists and turns of the train station, the candles that shine on Hugo’s clocks and cogs and the snow that gently falls as Hugo follows Papa Georges home one evening, desperately seeking the precious notebook.

The result is, as film should be, a celebration of the potential of images to generate mystery and create imagination, all without losing a strong story line.

The acting is strong and consistently believable. Hugo (Asa Butterfield), Isabelle (Chloe Grace Moretz) and the station inspector (Sacha Baron Cohen) are highlights. The work of Cohen is a pleasing surprise, given he is better known for his comic impersonations in the form of Ali G and Borat.

Much of the movie draws on historical references. Papa Georges is Georges Melies, a figure famous in French history as an innovative film maker. The train crash scene is a reference to 1895, when a faulty brake resulted in a train crashing out of Hugo’s station and into the street.

A central theme is “time.” Hugo tends time in the form of the clocks at the railway station. Hugo’s father, when alive, fixed time, while Papa Georges lives to hide from his past-time. Formerly a film-maker, shattered dreams have left him a man in need of redemption. As his wife tells him: “Georges, you’ve tried to forget the past for so long. Maybe it’s time you tried to remember.”

“Hugo” might be told through a child’s eyes, but the philosophy and theology questions it raises are adult in depth. Are humans simply cogs in the machine of time? Can a past be redeemed? Can humans, like Hugo, fix what is broken, both people and things?

Thus the film becomes a two way mirror. In “Hugo,” amid the ticking of time, with the machine-like quality that is modern life, through the brokenness of human dreams, we see ourselves. We are human, needing to hear an invitation: “Come and dream with me.”

Steve lives with his daughter, Kayli, in Adelaide, Australia. Both miss New Zealand. Both enjoy writing, watching and reviewing movies.

Posted by steve at 11:29 PM

No Comments

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.