"HER" | An alternative to human love?
Perhaps the days are not far away when people profess love for his Operating System. But what if the OS responds saying, ‘I’m currently in love with 600 people and interacting with 8000 OSs’ or sometimes, ‘I’m yours and I’m not yours’. More popular for his innovative music videos and films, director Adam Spiegel aka Spike Jonze’s idea of millennial love produces a wry satire of falling in love with an Operating System. With HER, Jonze tries to touch the emotive core of hypersensitive Gen Z who are raised with all the electronic instruments around them and his fourth feature brings him the Academy Award for best original screenplay.
Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) works for a company that composes intimate letters for those who fall short of expressing effectively. He is timid and a tortured soul who cannot prioritize between video games and internet porn. His long-term relationship with his childhood friend Catherine (Rooney Mara) is falling apart. So, separated they stay as Theo is hesitant to sign his divorce papers. In the meantime, after buying a new operating system built with an artificial intelligence, Theodore lunges to cyber-love. Her chosen female voice, Samantha of the system takes no time to get hold of his reclusive mind. Theo’s love for a disembodied artificial consciousness goes so deep that he ends up having a kind of cybersex. Because of his cathexis with the OS, Catherine when meets Theodore to get their legal papers signed pities him, ‘You are dating your computer!’
Joaquin Phoenix looks impressively talented as Theodore; one of his best works. In front of the camera alone, he does all the talking to himself, carrying out the ghost relationship. He is so convincing that the character’s vulnerability and emotional sensitivity are instantly recognizable. At the other end of the line Scarlett Johansson cannot be better. The film would have been meaningless without her superlative vocal performance. She is sexy, wise and lively; passionate yet aloof, close but distant, personal though professional. Amy Adams is good as Theodore’s sympathetic longtime neighbour Amy. Dutch cinematographer Hoytema shot precisely the urban exteriors at Singapore blending a part with Los Angeles. The colour palette of the film is made beige to add a dash of lifelessness in an environment where even the pedestrian’s lives are centered around their own electronic devices.
Spike smartly builds up Theodore’s character a bit weird who does not fit into a typical societal structure as a lover or a family man. His outfit matches 1940s whereas he ventures in 21st century timeline or may be more ahead in future. HER is not a simple love story but is an experiment, a fictional study of human relations in a technologically far superior world. It is full of strong metaphors that tries to connect meaningfully with the psyche of getting organically involved in a relationship and parallelly with a digitally tailored consciousness, to the user’s need.