‘Her’: A Masterpiece That Unites The Digitized World With Intricate Romantic Relationships

Posted on August 21, 2014 in Culture-Vulture

By Kanika Katyal:

I was asked to write a review of any movie of my choice, and I instantly knew that it was going to be ‘Her’. The film moved me immensely and got me teary-eyed. I call it a masterpiece, a distinct work of fiction that unites the digitized, scientific, rational world with the idyllic passionate cosmos. The love child of the digitized EDM and Beethoven-like soulful acoustics.

The title of the movie is “Her” and not “She”, which gives it a mystical ting. She is a dream, a fantasy, his muse and entrancement.

Her movie

The film captivates me from its very first scene. The hero, Theodore Twombley, delivers an endearing expression of his eternal love. His eyes gleaming, the corners of his mouth alternating between slight beaming and sighs, as he recalls the first time that he saw Loretta. Sincere and delightful!

Later we come to know that it is a futuristic society and his job is to compose handwritten letters at BeautifulHanwrittenLetters.com for (I’m assuming) the inarticulate, illiterate or plain busy. I’d call it completely un-ironic. Yes, I picked up on the Letters to Juliet reference, but I love the idea that Handwritten Love Letters never age, never fade and still manage to dwell within the warmth of the heart, no matter how advanced a society becomes.

The representation is that of a highly developed, Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot styled future society but the cinematic hue is vintage. Dimly lit lens, like that on a comforting afternoon, like fresh tea leaves simmering on the stove, like I’m falling into an embrace; the whole atmosphere has an old-school charm. The hero’s intense green eyes, the retro glasses, brown hair and moustache, the high waist pants, present a wonderful contrast for me (And also the silent hope, that someday, we will all quit being clones of mass consumerism and go back to that good old classic world).

The software is all fancy, but he checks his emails like a regular guy, and is mourning over his ex like all of us. “I can’t even prioritise between video games and internet porn”, he acknowledges. A few minutes into the movie and we sense that Twombly, played by the brilliant Joaquin Phoenix, is lonely and broken-hearted after a separation from his wife. The genre is romance-comedy-drama, and you will find that the movie does complete justice to the category.

One would normally spend at least a paragraph eulogising upon the actress’s beauty, and her ability to make love to the screen by that shimmer in her eyes. But here, the heroine is an unseen soulmate, and the magic still takes place. Scarlett Johansson miraculously creates Samantha, a full-bodied, three-dimensional character using just her voice. She is the Operating System, that Theodore falls in love with. When I say that she plays the computer, do not mistake her for uttering banal robotic sounds or following orders, such as — “Reading emails of Theodore Twombley.” Her chuckle is infectious! Her voice is quirky, animated and extremely sensuous.

The remarkable thing is that it all seems plausible. Samantha becomes his virtual companion. She cleans up his hard-drive, organizes his appointments and makes him laugh.

She is not just some atomized, digitized software, but is very promising in the fact that she works on intuition. She is a nosy little computer who engages in personal conversations with the user and reassures him that “You’re not (having this conversation with your computer). You’re having this conversation with me ! ”

“Sometimes I think, I have felt everything I’m ever gonna feel and from here on that I’m not gonna feel anything new. Just lesser versions of what I’ve already felt”, fears Theodore.

Absolving and transcending all mechanical wires and fetters of technology, she reaches out to him on a humane plane, helps him gain a new perspective, post his break up.

Come to think of it, what are real feelings, anyway? We live in a complex, shallow reality. What are happiness and sadness, except states always existing in an antithetic, antagonistic relationship with each other. You only know you’ve been high, when you’re feeling low. In our highly civilised, but lame society, when we are constantly battling the transience of each moment, getting deeply attached to someone on such a level doesn’t come as a shock to me.

What is Love but “a form of socially acceptable insanity”?

Their profound exchanges cultivate into a fertile moment of love-making. It is a beautiful, poignant scene. She grows breathless, It’s a Lawrentian moment. Samantha experiences a sexual awakening that will give you goosebumps!

It is a scene that fuses all the romance and disorientation and absurdity of the situation. And at the same time, reveals the compulsions of human mortality. It is only when you long for that touch, do you realise what you’re missing. But the film promotes the belief that sometimes, all you need is a companion, not a lover. It is just when you are convinced that Theodore and his lady computer will live happily ever after, that the period of parting arrives. When his love affair ends, I cried.

The film showcases a deep stage of a spectacular metaphysical life. It appeals to our afflicted, technology drained lives and our many selves who are, at once, virtually connected and yet, emotionally afloat. It reflects upon the nature of romantic relationships in a brave new world.

The director Spike Jonze’s brilliance lies in the fact that while Her draws upon an essentially sci-fi premise, it goes on to smoothly embody the entire trajectory of human emotions in a romantic relationship. From the initial crush phase, to petty arguments, to falling truly, madly, deeply in love, to the pangs of drifting apart, to finally learning to let go.

Some moments will make you laugh, some will move you to tears. And in all of them, you will find something of yourself.