Spike Jonze’s newest masterpiece, Her, is a gorgeous portrayal of the future. With its soft pastel colour palette and blush pink sheen, the film fabricates an almost ironically nostalgic glimpse into our future. The sleepy haze that permeates the screen invites audiences to wander into future Los Angeles, where we are introduced to Theodore Twombly and the fragments of his quiet life.
Without falling prey to the tropes of generic science fiction, where worlds are often cold and metallic – and where technology is definitively good or evil – the future in Her is multi-dimensional, deeply-faceted, and undeniably complex. Whereas many near-future films portray technology as an emotional void, dominant over humanity, Her chooses to imagine a future where technology remains a secondary, yet beautiful, facet of human life.
In keeping with the film’s novel implications about the virtues and vices of technology, Her’s defining feature lies in its remodeling of the traditionally parasitic portrayal of relationships between man and machine. It paints a gorgeous view (via cinematography and worldbuilding concept) of a future in which humans still take the center stage in the fabric of society, and tells the story of a world where technology has the capacity to be holistically integrated into our lives.
Indubitably, Jonze’s believable depiction of the interactions between man and machine pivots greatly on his character, Samantha: an operating system and Theodore’s love interest in the film. Rather than a technological construct made solely to fit the needs of a human, Samantha is an understanding, knowing being in her own right – a consciousness of sorts. Consequently, the seemingly unnatural romantic relationship that she develops with Theodore isn’t as odd as it first may appear.
Throughout the movie, Samantha asserts that she is a constantly evolving entity, not unlike a human mind. She grows, and we the audience experience this growth every step of the way. We are hurt when her voice breaks in sadness, and we empathize with her frustrations as she deals with the pain of not knowing whether her feelings are programmed or real. We are intrigued by Samantha because she has a real personality – she is witty, assertive, and she sees things with a refreshing sense of newness. More importantly, however, Samantha makes Theodore a better person, and because we are human, we eventually end up falling in love with her just as Theodore does.
Apart from the appealing use of technology in Her, what truly makes this film so engaging is the creation of a relatable landscape, and an honest exploration of the grittiness of human life. The effortless dialogue between Samantha and Theodore exemplifies a naturalness that is recognizably human, and together they experience all the grimy, crappy parts of life as well as the parts they see through rose-coloured glasses. When Samantha tells Theodore that she is finding it hard for them to change without scaring each other, she tells a truth about humanity as a whole.
In the ever-changing narrative fabric of our society and of our lives, we face the inescapable terror of an increasingly dehumanized world. Through Samantha, however, Her transforms this fear of technological ubiquity into something much greater – love. By associating Samantha, and thus technology, with love, suddenly we can imagine a future wholly integrated with a technological progress that will not define us, but rather make us even more human. And just as our past may be a story we tell ourselves, the future is just what we choose to create and what we choose to love. Because now, we know how.
-Contributed by Janice To