Contextual- Film Review-Hugo

Hugo-Martin Scorsese

The tale focuses on Hugo an orphan living a hidden life in the main train station of Paris in the early 1930s.  This film is a semi biographical look at the life and work of George Melies, one of Frances first exploratory and prolific film makers. The narrative and equilibrium of the film informs us, from the point of view of Hugo and the inter-personal relationships of the people who live and work in the railway station.

Figure 1

The   style of the film is a parody of much of Melies film work and is in direct opposition to the violent and social commentary film style explored by Martin Scorsese. Scorsese went through the process of recreating many of the scenes from Melies work to show how they were produced.

Figure 2


The plot revolves around the quest, in this case the attempt to fulfil the work of his father. The dispatcher of the film his father began the work prior to his death on the repair of an automaton. The hero Hugo leads a ghost like existence within the station hiding from the militaristic and apparently cruel station security guard (the apparent villain). The helper in this piece is also the princess, the granddaughter of the local stall holder.  In working its way through his quest to fulfil his father’s work, Hugo interacts with several individuals drawing them together. Such emotional interaction is rare in Scorsese more aggressive and complicated films.


It has been proposed that the film is both an homage to the influences of Melies. The film was even release in time for the anniversary of Melies birthday, which also coincided with a release of his surviving work on D.V.D. Others have suggested that the narrative of the film is a subtle but stated reflection of the Oscars and the fact that artists such as Melies did not receive the credit that was due to them and the ground breaking generation of special effects within his films.

One strange occurrence in the film is where Hugo whilst dreaming about the automaton appears to cause the derailment of a train through the station.  Though this ties in well to the plot the derailment is another actual occurrence (figure3) .The Montparnasse derailment occurred at 4:00 pm on October 22, 1895 when the Granville–Paris Express overran the buffer stop at its Gare Montparnasse terminus. With the train several minutes late and the driver trying to make up for lost time, it entered the station too fast and the train air brake failed. Why Scorsese has included this in the film is unclear. It may be speculated that he found this incident to be interesting or it may have been a contributing factor in his creation of the film as a starting point for this films creation.


Figure 3

In using Propp and Todorov theory of film it may be possible to  have a greater understanding of the  film to decided which is true.,  the disruption of the piece is when the hero is “caught” by the anti-hero, Melies who believes like so many other street children was stealing to survive.  The developing relationship between Hugo, Melies and the granddaughter leads the plot. But the disruption of the lifestyle of Hugo does more to draw the character towards the other individuals rather than to cause him to reflect on his life.

The resolution comes  due to the contributions of the Librarian, the film historian and the wife of Melies draw the lines of the plot together to reveal the fact that the resolution for Hugo lies in the mending of the broken spirit of Melies.   Melies believes himself no longer relevant since the war and the understanding that far from being a forgotten artist, he is a revered artist whom even modern artist both aspire to be like and to learn from.  This restores the outcome.  Allowing Hugo to complete the automaton and return it to Melies who in his youth had created it.  Hugo is also able to receive the message from his father and find a new and loving home.  The back ground characters that have directly and indirectly taken part in the plot each receives some resolution to an issue they have had or endured throughout the film.  The villain has his artificial limb repaired by Hugo and finds the love of the florist whom he has worshipped from afar. The traveller and the lady of the café find common ground.   The resolution of common themes is an unusual turn in a Scorsese film and I feel makes the film react better towards his target audience.

When reflecting on the overall quality of the film it is striking that all of the remembered or flashbacks that occur to Hugo are generated with a golden glow, whilst in comparison Melies reflects on his own past through a silver haze, possible to reflect on his life with film. This may or may not relate to the narrative it is difficult to come to an absolute conclusion to this question.





Illustration list

(2017). Retrieved 10 February 2017, from

(2017). Retrieved 10 February 2017, from

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Hugo. (2017). Cinemablography. Retrieved 10 February 2017, from

(2017) from http|//

HUGO: Scorsese’s birthday present to Georges Méliès. (2017). Observations on film art. Retrieved 10 February 2017, from…/hugo-scorseses-birthday-present-to-georges-melie

TV Tropes. (2017). TV Tropes. Retrieved 10 February 2017, from http://www.tvtropes.orgHugo 4


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