Her (2013)

I’m a big fan of technology.

In the future I can definitely see myself having a big fancy house packed wall to wall with artificial intelligence ready to wait on me hand and foot. Not for vanity, just to help me out with boring stuff like cleaning and ordering new light bulbs.

The thing is, robots will need artificial intelligence, the kind that will allow it to learn and develop with the absence of programmers and weekly upgrades.

This means the whole time it’s in my house it will be learning and most probably becoming a lot smarter than me (if you believe Arnold Schwarzenegger franchises are some sort of prophesy, one day it may even try to kill me with a Trident missile).

So you can imagine my relief when Spike Jonze came up with utopian film Her where man and machine live in seemingly divine harmony in the not-so-distant future.

Before we go on please note this film is, first and foremost, a love story like we have not seen before.

If you were expecting iRobot-style action with Big Will flying off motorcycles while shooting at an army of killer robots, think again.

Leading man Theodore, played artfully by Joaquin Phoenix, works for a company that literally deals in love and romance producing personalised handwritten love letters for their clients (on a computer). Yet he is unable to save his own marriage to Rooney Mara’s Catherine.

The city in which he lives is based on the developed world’s obsession with reinforcing our society with a digital environment. The megalopolis depicts a slightly more advanced civilisation where everyone has their noses in their supercharged and super-sleek iPhone, tablet or Kindle controlled by voice controlled earpieces. I say slightly because devices like Google Glass are already in existence.

Enter: the first artificially intelligent operating system, ‘OS1’, in the form of Scarlett Johansson as the voice of Samantha – a name she gives herself in two one-hundredths of a second after reading a book on baby names, just to give you an idea of how fast she learns.

You appreciate just how sensual Johansson’s voice is in a role where her physical appearance is removed from the picture entirely.

Jonze elegantly captures the beauty, complexities and imperfections of the inevitable relationship that develops between Samantha, as she acknowledges her own consciousness, and Theodore, as he comes to terms with his separation and longing for intimacy.

The lines are blurred between whether man and machine can have a ‘real’ relationship, and if Samantha is really a consciousness like you and me.

The shocking realism that is presented to us forces us to cogitate on how people and the wider society would deal with this shift in technological advances, markedly affecting the interactions we have with ourselves as human beings while we search for love and purpose in our lives.

Amidst the array of pastel colours tastefully flavouring the cityscape from K.K. Barrett’s production design prowess (who also worked on the iconic Being John Malkovich and Lost in Translation), Jonze delivers a shockingly authentic experience that the audience can follow and can connect with emotionally.

Jonze has shown us a version of ourselves that could manifest itself in our society. You can decide for yourself whether human contact can be replaced with, or even exceeded by, an emotional bond that is purely intellectual.

For me, this stunning telling of the future is a conversation that should definitely be happening today as we spend more time constructing a wholesome and contented virtual persona and seek our friends and soul mates over the digital landscape.


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