‘…a broken machine always makes me a little sad, because it isn’t able to do what it was meant to do… Maybe it is the same with people…?’
What does the film Hugo suggest about purpose?
Martin Scorsese’s film ‘Hugo’ suggests that everyone has a purpose or place in the world. Throughout ‘Hugo’ there are characters that are broken and can only be healed by accepting or letting go of their troubles. Almost all of the characters are different or set apart because of this brokenness, or grief, that all of them have experienced or are experiencing. Even the main character, Hugo is unsure of himself. He starts to befriend other characters who are also different and perhaps broken, like Isabelle and Georges Melies. There is a common theme all along; the broken can be fixed.
Although Hugo is the main character, he is unsure of himself and his impact on the world. Starting off as innocent and almost carefree, Hugo is surrounded by the love of his father. When he is with his father, the light becomes warmer in the scenes, and his father’s eyes are filled with a strong love for his only child. When his father is incinerated by a raging fire at his workplace, Hugo starts to understand the pain of the outside world. He follows his uncle to his new home in the train station without protesting and lives alone for months by himself. “Everything has a purpose. Clocks tell the time…Machines never come with any extra parts, you know. They always come with the exact amount you need; so, I figured if the whole world was one big machine…I had to be here for some reason”. Hugo ponders this and wonders what his purpose is. His father is dead; he can’t even fix the only heirloom left to him, the automaton. With the help of his newfound friend, Isabelle, Hugo comes to understand his purpose. Even though Hugo learns about the history of film and discovers many secrets on his adventure with Isabelle, the main thing he discovers is his purpose.
Georges Melies is haunted by ghosts of his past and forgets his purpose. Everything that Melies does; the way he stands in his slumped, defeated posture, to how he acts when his old films are rediscovered suggests that he is a broken man. Just when he has reached the pinnacle of his career, just when he is living his own dream, that dream is taken from him. As the first world war sweeps through Europe, there is no time to enjoy Melies’ films. The soldiers need weapons along with courage and grit, determination. What they do not need are moving pictures of wonderful people sitting on stars and battling monsters. Georges now refers to his memories as “Ghosts”. Georges was once happy, but throughout most of the film, he is so broken that he may never heal. Just when his old memories have come back to haunt him for the first time in decades, Hugo comes to the rescue and Melies rediscovers his purpose and his old life, turning the ghosts that haunt him into heavenly spirits.
Sometimes there are characters that are, and should remain overlooked, but Isabelle is certainly not one of them. Isabelle gives Hugo something to live for, and brings him a jolt of happiness every time he meets his one and only friend in the station. She remains positive and rather carefree throughout the film, but one should always remember that she too has experienced extreme grief. The same as Hugo, Isabelle lost her parents in untold circumstances, but has decided to make the most of life and bounce back. She sticks with Hugo through thick and thin, but she still does not know what her purpose is. “I wonder what my purpose is”, Isabelle ponders; and is perhaps the only one that does not know. Although she is not the main character, Isabelle has a strong purpose in the storyline. Some might just take Isabelle for granted, but if she is not so kind to Hugo, he would most likely have been caught by the Station Master, not to mention both Hugo and Isabelle would never have discovered what the Automaton had to say. Isabelle is an integral part of this film, and is actually a complex character who should not be overlooked, because her purpose is one of the most important of all.
All of these characters contribute to the sequence of events in the film. If Isabelle was not there to try to fix Hugo, he would never have discovered the automaton’s secret message, which would never have lead to them follow Georges Melies on his journey to accept his past and show his library of films to the world. Although all of them impact on the storyline of the film, they also impact mentally on each other as well. Kindness is a key message; as all of the characters find themselves in the middle of an unanticipated adventure but take it in their stride all the same, regardless of their own past or emotions, actions or desires. The film ‘Hugo’ is not only amazing, but it is a wonderful journey with the common theme of characters finding their true purpose and place in the world.
By Emily Marthick