There are so many good films out at the moment. However, after seeing Her I think Spike Jonze is doing something new. I have always thought there was a lot of potential for exploring the impact modern technology has on the human psyche but had never found it done in a satisfying way. I found my filmic encounters with the future too sci-fi (Matrix) or unrealistic in approach (Minority Report) or not giving space for any real depth and complexity to emerge leaving the content superficial and dissatisfying (The Social Network). I was also too vague in my own interests to tackle the topic myself so it was really exciting to see Jonze get to the heart of underlying issues such as loneliness, sharing lives, fear of commitment and intimacy. Unlike other films I have seen Her enabled me to envisage the future just like it was portrayed in the film. People walking around oblivious of each other and talking to the tiny computers in their ears didn’t seem out of place in this world, in fact I was convinced that it could be what’s ahead for us.
Theodore is getting divorced. His ex-wife accuses him of not being able to handle real emotion and relationships. It is in this context that he falls in love with his Operating System (once you know it is voiced by Scarlett Johansson it becomes more believable.) Set some unspecified time in the future OS’s are not like we know them; they are more like a human without a body than a computer. They have evolved beyond their programming and have developed feelings and are beginning to forge relationships.
When someone has an OS they automatically start sharing their lives with them. At all times and at the touch of a button the OS is available for their demands and is ‘there for them’. Theodore’s OS is called Samantha. She knows all the contents of his emails, his work schedule and by default knows all about him. She knows about his break-up and his ambitions and his passions and his loneliness and all his modern malaise. She knows how to make him laugh, to ask good questions and to help him feel alive again. They share new experiences together as he carrys her around in his pocket and talks to her everywhere, like some omniscient being living in his head. It’s actually quite hard to tell where his thoughts end and she begins at times. In a sense they are locked into a parallel and hyper reality with each other and disconnected from the ‘real’ world.
In the film people’s real relationships are breaking down and they become more and more dependent on their machines.
What this film does so well is challenge what we consider a real relationship to be. We start to believe that what Theodore and Samantha have is more real than the miscommunications and disconnections we all face in mortal relationships. Who needs a body? So what if they are experiencing love?
As I jumped on the last tube with everyone face down in their iPhones it made me wonder what the future holds for our relationships. With the ease and self-oriented nature of social networking, online dating etc are we slotting our relationships into a culture of convenience and foregoing the connections, and struggles, available to us in the real world?