Learn about real love through unreal software.
Director: Spike Jonze (Being John Malkovich)
Cast: Joaquin Phoenix (Walk the Line), Scarlett Johansson (Lost in Translation)
Runtime: 120 min.
by John DeSando
No better romance is on the screen in 2013 than Spike Jonze’s insightful Her. It’s about a writer in the future, Theodore, who falls in love with his new operating system (gravelly, sexy voice of Scarlett Johansson), just as he is reluctantly divorcing Catherine (Rooney Mara). The always complicated paths of love make sense as we witness the Platonic relationship develop, sans flesh and sans insanity that usually comes with that flesh.
Her is a simple film that offers a view of love I never thought could come from a machine and its software. Although critics will cite the theme as a screed against the distancing of technology and our growing isolation from each other, and they will be right, I offer the sub theme that only when we strip ourselves of sensual bonds can we see the purity of emotional love, an essence of which Plato would have approved. Yes, although technology is mediating our lives at a rapid pace, we fall back to a personal drive to love and be loved that is physical in its best form but understood best if we can distance ourselves from that physicality.
This delightfully intimate and non-violent film from acclaimed absurdist director Spike Jonze is more emotionally involving than even Enough Said (one of 2013’s best romances) because the interaction between the software and the man is all verbal, no glimpse of the gorgeous Johansson allowed. Although this intuitive OS does allow mind sex, even that activity is abstract, allowing us to realize how connecting with a live human is in the mind still and one of life’s great gifts, orgasm or not.
Her allows us to witness the evolution of love separate from the encumbrances of physicality. Released from the bonds of appearance, voice is the seducer, not in rude sexual nuance but rather in the care that comes from love of the mind, not the body.
K.K. Barrett’s production design, Austin Gorg’s art direction, and Gene Serdena’s set decoration are memorable: full of comfortable light, much glass overlooking the city, and modern but warm furniture both in LA and Singapore. These artists understand that the fusion of technology and art is not a battle but a collaboration that further helps us understand the intricate workings of human emotion.
“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” Arthur C. Clarke
John DeSando co-hosts WCBE 90.5’s It’s Movie Time and Cinema Classics, which can be heard streaming and on-demand at WCBE.org. Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.rr.com