I was really hesitant to watch ‘Her’ and now after watching it, I’m not sure why. I think it’s because the concept eluded me at first: a man in love with his operating system, but why? Is it pathetic, is it so far-fetched?
And then I started comparing it to loving a stuffed animal, having an imaginary friend, or my favorite, falling in love with a TV or movie character and suddenly it didn’t seem so ludicrous. These examples are of course one-sided, but somehow many people mange to construct two-sided relationships with stimuli and their minds. The glaring difference is that Samantha (voice of Scarlett Johansson) is a sentient being. It’s a whole new form of connection. Does more personalization isolate us from people even as it strives to help us make stronger connections? ‘Her’ answered this and then went beyond.
‘Her’ was also visually stimulating. Having shades of red in almost EVERY scene did get a tad annoying (red for love, red for pain, red for expression–we get it Jonze) but having an almost neutral or bland background on which the red was allowed to interact made it work. The added bonus of a soul-wrenching soundtrack made each scene pack a punch of meaning.
Seeing echoes of a world holding on to individuality as well as growing increasingly more streamlined with technical sophistication was fascinating. Watching Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) connect with Samantha reminded me of how well my brother works with Siri. It also reminded me of how I was when I first got my Samsung Galaxy S4 and was able to wave my hand in front of the screen to navigate between pages as well as many other things that I’d only imagined doing with a phone. The feeling was exhilarating.
Theodore’s job as a letter writer was an interesting way of juxtaposing his manner of being able to know exactly what everyone else needed in their relationships but still learning what he needed in a relationship of his own. This was repeated throughout the movie: what is the difference between a stagnant relationship and a relationship that is continually evolving? The movie also explores the types of relationships one can have to be fulfilled–the old, the new, the platonic, and the complicated. I like that we get to see the relationship between Theodore and his friend Amy evolve as well. The concept of people outside a relationship not understanding the strength of the connection was really powerful as well, with the typical supporters and naysayers.
Falling in love with Samantha was easier than I expected. She was funny, witty, insightful, quirky, and compassionate–almost as if Jonze decided to take aspects of women at their best and combine them into an artificial intelligence. The emphasis on words and how much power they can hold was clear from Theodore’s job, to his conversations with Samantha, and how easily misplaced words can destroy a relationship. Words can build up and tear down, and throughout ‘Her’ the effects are clear. The best part was the focus on an emotional and intellectual connection being the basis for a satisfying relationship and then the physical part being brought into question later.
In some form, the operating systems are a form of relationship utopia. They represent the honeymoon stage, when everything is fresh and exciting. Even though they are constantly growing, they grow and their human counterpart is left stagnant because they are reveling in the perfection and personalization aspect of the operating system. This is why the end was bittersweet and refreshing, but necessary for the main point of the movie. ‘Her’ is definitely a powerful and thought-provoking film.