“Bursting with earned emotion, Hugo is a mechanism that comes to life at the turn of a key in the shape of a heart.”
Within the last three days I completed a Hugo trifecta. I watched the movie Hugo, read Hugo: The Shooting Script by John Logan, and read the book that inspired both, The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick— and I can say that they all share the same heartbeat. Which is kind of an amazing feat all by itself.
A good deal of the 530 page book is illustrations.
“Part of John’s challenge was to take my picture sequences and them into text, which would then be turned back into visuals by Scorsese using the latest technology the cinema has to offer:3-D.“
Forward to Hugo: The Shooting Script
There are little differences here and there, but the essential plot and characters of the book and movie remain intact. And, perhaps more importantly, the theme remains the same. In the book Hugo says;
“Did you ever notice that all machines are made for some reason?” he asked Isabelle. “They are built to make you laugh, like the mouse here, or to tell time, like clocks, or to fill you with wonder, like automaton. Maybe that’s why a broken machine makes me a little sad, because it isn’t able to do what it was meant to do.”
Isabelle picked up the mouse, wound it again, and set it down.
“Maybe it’s the same with people.” Hugo continued. “If you lose your purpose … it’s like you’re broken.”
In the screenplay and movie Hugo says;
“Did you ever notice that all machines are made for some reason? They make you laugh, like Papa Georges’ toys, or they tell time, like the clocks … Maybe that’s why broken machines always make me sad, because they can’t do what they’re meant to do.”
She looks up at him. From her perspective, he is beautifully framed by the intricate clockwork.
“Maybe it’s the same with people. If you lose your purpose … it’s like you’re broken.”
That’s the heart of Hugo. In also happens to be the heart of Toy Story 3, Seabiscuit, and many other books and movies featuring broken characters who have lost their way in life. And part of what gives power and meaning to these stories is that is also our story.
“We spend much of our lives trying to reconcile these two halves of our spirit and soul—call it identity—we struggle to figure out just what and who it is we genuinely are. The reason we go to the movies is precisely to explore these perpetually unanswerable questions regarding our identity. It’s the same reason we go to church, temple, mosque, ashram or meetinghouse: we seek answers to the wonderful and dreadful puzzle of our existence.”
UCLA Screenwriting Chairman Richard Walter
The Whole Picture (Book recently updated as Essentials of Screenwriting)
Recent headlines show all too well the detrimental effects of what happens when talented people lose their purpose in life. (And, unfortunately, that’s a timeless truism.)
Tomorrow, in The Heart of “Hugo” (Part 2), we’ll look why Hugo was such a personal story for its director, Martin Scorsese. A man usually known for his gritty films—but a man not immune to being broken. Who knew that Scorsese and the Bee Gees had something in common?
Happy Valentine’s Day.
Robert McKee vs. Richard Walter (on writing personal stories)