Hugo (Guest post by: Glen Ulrich)

Posted: May 22, 2012 by jperritt in Comedy, Drama, Family
Tags: , ,

A movie with Martin Scorse (films: The Departed, Shutter Island, The Goodfellas) as a director and Sacha Baron Cohen (films: Borat, Bruno, Dictator) as a main actor that can be safely watched by children? These are reasons enough to view this Academy Award winning film.  Add to this the beautiful musical scores and visually pleasing cinematography and it’s a must-see! But surely by now you know that this site does more than point out Academy Award nominations. This movie presents some great questions to wrestle with for both adults and your children: questions on purpose and meaning as well as illuminating the Gospel.  Now I tried to not merely summarize, but highlight the themes to be watching for. You’ll have to watch the movie to get the whole effect. That being said, there still may be some spoilers.

So who are we and why are we here? Are we “broken machines with no purpose” or are we created for something? This theme is found throughout the film beginning with the identity of Hugo Cabret, the orphan who lives in the train station of Paris and keeps the clocks up. Hugo learned to tinker from his father who was a clock maker. His father died leaving Hugo nothing but memories and an automaton – a mechanical man created to write/draw a message when wound like a clock. Hugo makes it his purpose to gather parts and get it working. He toils endlessly but cannot find the one heart-shaped key that would begin the wind-up process. Hugo meets a young girl named Isabelle. They quickly become friends and discover they already have something in common; the heart-shaped key hanging around the girls neck. Now the adventures begin to discover who the girl’s god-father is. Off to the clock-tower to wind the automaton and get this written message; the message to give Hugo purpose in life (at least he hoped it would). Hugo says to Isabelle:

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.

 “Maybe that’s why a broken machine always makes me a little sad, because it isn’t able to do what it was meant to do… Maybe it’s the same with people. If you lose your purpose… it’s like you’re broken.”

This begs the question, what is our purpose? Why are we here on this earth? Are we extra parts with no purpose? Are we machines that work perfectly once our heart-shaped keys are found? Are we scrap metal to the Great Manufacturer? Are we actors in God’s great guild? The Bible does tell us in Job 23 that God does what he pleases and in Romans 9 that he created vessels for both wrath and mercy for the display of His power and glory. Could a broken vessel ever be used to glorify God? If we are broken vessels, will he just discard us like junk? Is He cruel? Calloused? Is God on a power trip?

Well, we find out Isabelle’s god-father, is Georges Melies; a man depicted as emotionally dead and seemingly calloused about his particular circumstances. Hugo must “fix” Melies like the broken machines he tinkers with and help him rediscover his purpose in life.

Skipping ahead, Gorges is at an award ceremony. He sees Hugo in the seats and addressing the whole crowd says:

“Ladies and gentlemen, I…I am standing before you tonight because of one very brave young man, who saw a broken machine and against all odds, he fixed it. It was the kindest magic trick that ever I’ve seen.”

Finally, a narrative is being read by Isabelle:

Once upon a time, I met a boy named Hugo Cabret. He lived in a train station. Why did he live in a train station? You might well ask. That’s really what this book is going to be about. And about how this singular young man searched so hard to find his secret message from his father and how that message led his way all the way home. [Emphasis mine]

Now, some thoughts, if you haven’t already been connecting spiritual dots.  Our purpose? Our “reason” for being created? To glorify God and enjoy him forever. The problem? We can’t. We can neither glorify God nor enjoy him. We, “broken machines” and sinners are unable to be “fixed” on our own powers – we are simply vessels of wrath talked about in Romans 9. End of the story? Is God cruel to make us and then leave us so helpless? No, because we are all here because God saw us – “broken machines” – and against all odds, He fixed us.  To use the movie’s quote: “It was the kindest magic trick that we will ever experience.” How did He do this? Well, once upon a time, God sent His Son Jesus Christ to do the message of His Father; to live in this world, to take on our flesh, to have no place to lay his head, live a perfect life, die a gruesome death and be resurrected into glorious light so that we may no longer be called “broken orphans”, but Sons of God; co-heirs to the thrown – finally giving us purpose. All glory be to God!

Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.”  – John 4:34

“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” – John 15:13

“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” – 2 Corinthians 5:21


Glen Ulrich: Husband. Father of one daughter. Member at Pear Orchard Presbyterian Church in Ridgeland, MS.  A Civil Engineer who graduated from Mississippi State University.  Avid movie watcher but recently (with the help from this site) trying to watch movies through the lens of scripture. Thankful for God’s grace upon my life in that I can love because He loved me first.

  1. DustyOldTrail says:

    Glennnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn!!! Very well written. I never saw the movie because I don’t have children. I’d like to say that I’ll watch it now but I’ll probably just read my bible and by that I mean watch tv. It’s good to know that it doesn’t fall on me to fix myself. What’s that bit about grace? It doesn’t leave you where it found you. I am praying more than I was and at least opening the Bible to find trump cards in arguements. What we meant for evil He meant for good, right. He who began a good work will complete it. Good to see that they let engineers write now. A++

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