The automaton, a complex work of art and science designed to do one thing, or communicate one message, in this case, is an ingenious metaphor for movies themselves. Moreso, the automaton would not reveal its purpose or message until a heart-shaped key was inserted; nor will a movie reveal its deeper meaning without the viewer using their mind (as key) and heart to engage with the movie and unlock its mystery. My favorite part of this construct is the boy’s belief that the automaton produce a message from his dead father. By extension, then, a movie reveals a message from, in some kind of spiritual collective manner, our shared origin or what binds us all together. Beautiful.
Another thread through the movie is that of finding one’s purpose, and being free to do the work that serves one’s purpose in life. Do not live at the Paris train station of life where people merely come and go, but stop and take hold of your purpose, whatever it may be. For Scorsese, that purpose is art through movies which in the library are found “on the top shelf”. Beautiful.