Saturday, February 25, 2012

The invention of Hugo Cabret

One of the better films in cinemas in Australia this summer was Hugo which we enjoyed viewing in 3D. Consequently I decided to borrow the book by Brian Selznick on which the film is based.

Published in 2007 this novel in words and pictures deservedly won the 2008 Caldecott Medal for picture book illustration. Both in content and size (more than 500 pages)  it is however designed as a book for upper primary - lower secondary students but in fact can be enjoyed by adults as well.

The story starts with a series of double page pencil sketched illustrations with black borders that start with a picture of the moon and then show the wider view of Paris just before sunrise, followed by the  view of the railway station as it gradually becomes busier. Among the throng we first encounter our hero, Hugo Cabret, as he travels to his room hidden behind the clock tower. From this vantage point he is able to watch the toy stall wher an elderly gentleman, Georges Melies, works. In 21 double pages the scene for the story is set and the reader meets the two protagonists. On page 46 the first words of the novel appear, placing the images we have observed in contect. The story then unfolds primarily via image pages intersperced with sections of text and it works really well.

Initially the plot involves Hugo's attempts to rebuild the automaton that his father had been working on at the museum before his death in the hope that the machine would provide a message from his father. The message from the automation then leads Hugo and Isabelle on a quest revealing the development of the early motion picture industry.

There are, of course, a few differences between the book and the film but the film is generally faithful to the book and many of the illustrations from the book are incorporated into the film.

The Invention of Hugo Cabret website provides additional information about the book and the film and also about Georges Melies.

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