For my degree, I had to take a class that focused on Children’s Literature. For the class, I was required to read the book: The Invention of Hugo Cabret. This book turned out to be my favorite of all the books that I had to read for that class. Not only was the book unique on it’s own, but if you learn about some of the history behind the book it creates an educational tool as well. If you ever see the book, it’s huge due to it being 550 pages in length. Don’t let that scare you if you aren’t a avid book reader. The book is filled with wonderful pictures all drawn by the author. The pictures are important in helping you understand the story. If you ignored the text of the book and just flipped through the book, it is supposed to give you the feeling of watching a movie. The book was inspired by the old black in white silent movies, so each picture is a black and white sketch and of course the text pages are designed to look like the text screens in those movies. The story of Hugo Cabret was compelling to me because in the beginning, you are as lost as he is – not knowing where the story is going to take you. What you don’t realize in the beginning is that the story takes you through a world grounded in history and imagination. You don’t realize it at all, until you learn the research that the author – Brian Selznick put into writing the story.
A huge chunk of the story revolves around a man named George Melies. What I didn’t realize while reading the story was that George Melies actually existed. He is a real person that existed in history. George Melies was a french film director, that worked during the time of silent film. He was known for his inventive and imaginative films, and actually made the very first science fiction movie called A Trip to the Moon. George Melies made many many films, you can see a full list of them here on IMDB. Not only did George Melies direct the films, but from time to time he also acted in them, wrote, produced, did the make up, designed, did special effects, music, and cinematography. He was a Jack of all Trades in movie making. His films even inspired the Smashing Pumpkins for thier Tonight, Tonight music video. He also collected and created machines called “Automata” or “Automatons” – the machines worked like wind up toys but weren’t as simplistic as the little wind up toys you see today. These machines were filled with complicated clockwork and would sing, or dance, draw, write, or even sing on a trapeze. The reason I bring up Automata, is because the story focuses on one particular Automaton throughout the story. The author, Brian Selznick actually went to the Franklin Institute in Philidelphia to study the Automata.
Brian Selznick even traveled around France to take pictures to help inspire and insure accuracy in his drawings throughout the story. He actually used people he met as models for the characters throughout the story. He actually used a man named Remy Charlip as the model for the character of Papa George. Remy Charlip is a writer and illustrator of children’s books that Brian Selznick adored growing up. Brian Selznick even watched a lot of old movies as well while writing the book – such as Safety First, a comedy movie of the time period. What amazed me is that he even referenced a train crash that haunted Hugo in the story. The train crash was real, it was the crash of Gare Montparnasse in Paris during 1895. You can see more information about the crash here. I suggest you check out the page, because if you have seen the movie – then the image will probably look very familiar.
What I have to say is that I absolutely loved the story of the book. What I didn’t realize after I read the book was that a movie was already in talks. I remember reading about it thinking “Oh, I hope they don’t mess this one up!”. Sure, Martin Scorsese was directing it so I had hope but I still had my fears. I worried that the magic of the story would be left out. I saw the movie the day it was released with my fiance. He told me to tell him what I thought of it when we left, but then he laughed because he knew he would be able to tell from the expressions on my face or that I might lean over and whisper about it being wrong if I was unhappy. After all he did have to go through some of the Harry Potter movies with me and he was lucky he didn’t have to endure seeing The Golden Compass with me (apologies to my sister). If I love a book, I tend to be disappointed if they make changes to it because often they change the whole story up or miss the things that make me love the book.
To both his and my amazement, I just sat there watching the movie quietly. When we walked out of the movie, I was still quiet saying nothing. Going over the movie in my head. The thing was, I picked apart every scene in my head and I was just plain sucked in and amazed. Right when the movie started it was a direct scene from the story, I felt like I was literally watching the book. Sure there were changes to the book – but they were changes that seemed to fit the story well. I was amazed that they even kept the history involved that made me love the book so much. Including the historic train crash and the Automaton even looked spot on. This is the first book to movie transitions that I left with little to no complaining. Sure, I admit that I was a bit disappointed that the movie wasn’t black and white because I felt it lost the feeling of an old movie but I feel that in the end the color just added to the imagination and whimsy in the story.
One thing I will say is that many people seem to end up a bit disappointed by the turn of plot in the story. What I say about that is sure, it’s not a huge “Oh my gosh moment” but if you truly enjoy movies and the creativity and imagination that it takes to put one together, you will be pleased. I was, I’m all about encouraging wonder and imagination. Sure, you can be the smartest person in the world but without creativity or imagination how can things be created? Movies are one of those creations and being a movie lover, I feel that Hugo captured that appreciation.
What to read more about Hugo Cabret? Go here.
Selznick, B. (29, January 2012). The invention of hugo cabret. Retrieved from http://www.theinventionofhugocabret.com