HUGO: Purpose and Kindness | FCC 149

In Martin Scorsese’s family film HUGO, the eponymous character (played by Asa Butterfield) shows kindness to retired filmmaker Georges Melies (played by Ben Kingsley) which leads to his restoration. Join us as we discuss these Christian themes and so much more on this episode of the Finding Christ In Cinema podcast.

For your convenience you will find each podcast segment at the time referenced below:

  • 00:00:00 – Introduction and Previous Episode Recap 
  • 00:02:18 – Movie Discussion
  • 00:27:57 – Listener Feedback
  • 00:39:02 – Christian Themes in HUGO

Key Texts for Hugo

Let these passages be your guide as you watch HUGO with friends and loved ones.

Matthew 9:13 NASB

But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire compassion, and not sacrifice,’ for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.

Romans 2:4 NASB

Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?

Hugo’s Purpose

Hugo Cabret is a homeless orphan who lives at the train station. He lives on stolen bread and milk, and he sleeps in an abandoned apartment. He’s always on the run from the Station Inspector. He never seems to catch a break. Even with all this, however, Hugo has a purpose.

This sense of duty and purpose was instilled into Hugo by his father. Being a clockmaker who never went out of business, he always needed Hugo to help him fix things. When his father died, Hugo’s Uncle Claude took him in. With him, Hugo learned how to maintain the clocks at the train station. After Uncle Claude vanished, Hugo continued to fix anything he could. Fixing things became his second nature.

This image from HUGO shows Asa Butterfield and Jude Law.

When Hugo meets the mysterious Papa Georges, he quickly realizes that Papa Georges is a broken man. Hugo rightfully feels drawn to Papa Georges because of his sympathy for him. This sympathy and compassion create within Hugo a tugging of the heartstrings and an overflow of compassion. It’s this compassion that moves Hugo to act out of kindness.

We as Christians need to be reminded of this point constantly. In a world fraught with people with whom we may or may not agree, it’s important to remember that our influence over them is only as powerful as our compassion for them. Just like Hugo couldn’t fix Papa Georges until he had compassion on him, neither can we “fix” anybody we think needs fixing until we have compassion on them first.

Compassion for Papa Georges

Once Hugo realizes that fixing Papa Georges is his purpose, he makes it his mission to go out of his way to do so. Of course, it’s not so easy to do when Papa Georges catches Hugo stealing from him. It’s actually Papa Georges’s mercy on Hugo that sparks this theme within the film, but Hugo carries it all the way through.

It’s not until Hugo and Isabelle meet Rene Tabard, a film connoisseur and author, that they realize who Papa Georges really is: esteemed and renowned filmmaker Georges Melies. Both Rene and Hugo’s father was touched emotionally by Melies’s work, and Rene wants to return the favor. He does so by showing Melies his old film, and it’s all thanks to Hugo’s efforts.

This image from HUGO shows Ben Kingsley.

Christians can learn a lot simply by watching this interaction, but it’s really from the denouement that we believers can truly glean our understanding of how kindness transform Georges. At the screening of his films, Melies mentions that he wouldn’t even be in attendance were it not for the efforts of a brave, young boy.

May we all strive to be as brave, kind, and compassionate as Hugo so that we, too, can truly save the world.

Finding Christ In Cinema is the show where we discover Christian themes in movies past and present. Join us and together we’ll dig deeper into the silver-screen classics of yesteryear as well as the box-office hits of today. Brought to you by the Great Commission Transmission Network. View the complete show notes – including links to articles discussed – by clicking here.

Use the audio player at the top of this article to listen to the podcast, or use the links below for other convenient ways to hear FCC.

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About Brenden Taylor

Brenden is an educational assistant and tutor by day and a theatre practitioner by night. He has his M.A. in Theatre Arts and is always looking for a good way to use stories to soften peoples' hearts. Find him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter @LeviTheBeliever.
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