wogma rating: Beg or borrow, but do watch (?)
Beautifully shot and acted, Spike Jonze’s Her touches a chord deep within, because it talks about one of humanity’s greatest fears – loneliness. Yet, it does so while always tickling you or charming you. A simple, powerful story of relationships, Her is a film that must not be missed.Read more
Spike Jonze’s Her is primarily about loneliness. Everyone is connected to their computer at all times. But to each other? Not so much. Wide shots of public spaces show almost everyone walking by themselves, but look closely, and they are all talking. You’d be forgiven for thinking that they’re all on the phone with a loved one. In fact, there’s a good chance they’re all talking to their computers.
Welcome to the future; where your computer runs your life even more than it does today; where operating systems have gotten so smart, they’re like a real live person to talk to; without a body, of course. In fact, it has become possible to develop a real relationship with them, with real feelings involved.
And yet, how fruitful can such a relationship be? Will the fundamental disparity between man and machine be an obstacle? Will concepts like commitment, fidelity, romance, intimacy and the likes ever manifest themselves within the existential realm of machines?
In this futuristic world, we are introduced to Theodore Twombly – the kind of man it is so easy to root for, yet one who seems to give off the air of desolate melancholy. A chance purchase – a brand new advanced operating system – introduces him to the unlikeliest of possible partners; his OS, who goes by the name Samantha.
The film, visually bathed in golden glows and flares, gives you that warm, fuzzy feeling throughout, despite the fundamentally cold theme of loneliness; it is funny and heart-breaking in equal measure. As we observe Theodore and how his relationship with Samantha develops, we begin to see that such a relationship, between man and machine, actually seems not only possible, but also probable in the near future.
There is a reason for Theodore’s loneliness, and there is a reason why Samantha is able to fulfill the gap, without being real in flesh and blood. Their relationship follows the most logical of paths, even though you’re never sure of whether you truly want to give your own personal stamp of approval to the relationship or not. The fact remains that the fundamental emotional needs of a human soul are unique to our species. No matter how far into the future we are, some things just will not change – the yearning for a warm hug, the need for physical companionship, the wish to have the one you love all to yourself – these are purely human traits, and nothing can change that.
Joaquin Phoenix plays Theodore Twombly almost perfectly. Here is another actor – like Daniel Day Lewis and Christian Bale - who seems to morph into the character he’s playing almost always. He wins you over almost instantly, and yet, you can see why he is a lonely man. What makes his performance even more noteworthy is that he doesn’t have a physical presence to react to. Samantha the OS is voiced by Scarlett Johansson, who is a joy to hear. She tinges her voice with the right amount of naughtiness, playfulness and sexiness. Amy Adams, another chameleon when it comes to slipping into characters, plays Theodore’s friend, and she is so natural, it is hard to believe she is acting.
But the true heroes of Her are the cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema, whose shots make the film a visual joy, and writer-director Spike Jonze. If his Being John Malkovich and Adaptation were written by the maverick Charlie Kauffman, this time he goes completely solo. The narrative is far simpler than his previous films, and yet, that in no way implies that it doesn’t have deft touches and layers that enchant you.
Her is a shining example of a simple, powerful concept with the right embellishments leading to a captivating film. Depending on how you look at it, it may leave you with a smile, or with a lump in your throat; either way, it is the kind of film that is hard to not be moved by.
This article is by guest author Pradeep Menon. Pradeep is a filmmaker and a dreamer. He loves books, rain, winters, tea and his parents. Cinema, however, is the only truth he believes in. He breathes and bleeds film, mostly in hues of saffron, white, green and blue. You can watch his short films at www.youtube.com/cyberpradeep.
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