Her

It’s the shortest film title I’ve seen in awhile.

Her

It’s eerie just how much this film reminds me of the present and where we seem to be going.  Today, for instance, I was listening to Norah Young on Spark, discussing etiquette, the boundaries people establish to balance real life and virtual, defining acceptable amounts of electronic invasions of our moments in society.

I’m reminded too of the bridal shower I was at a couple of years ago, one of the four oldest people in the room (me & my partner, and the parents of the bride).  About an hour into the party, everything got very quiet, very strange.

Why?

I was talking to someone, in a big party full of silent people. Odd.  I noticed a room of chairs occupied by people staring at their devices.  The four of us were the only ones looking up, while everyone else looked into their hand, changelings left behind while their spirits flew off through their phones & computers.

Her is a movie that is early in a new genre.  I know we’ll see more films like this.  Some of 2001: A Space Odyssey could be from this genre: films concerned with virtual relationships, both the ideal and by implication, the not-so-ideal partnerships.  There have probably been other films exploring this frontier: where relationships are no longer human with human, but human with electronic.  Spielberg’s AI Artificial Intelligence was another film asking some of the questions asked in this film.

What’s different about this one, from Spike Jonze, is how little it has of sci-fi.  We could be in the present but for a few odd and even worrisome divergences.

The biggest one is that the waist-bands of the pants are different from what we see nowadays.  The waist comes up a bit, the shirts tucked in, as if the tummies are maybe a bit softer, in a world that’s not working out so much because nobody seems as physical.  It’s not something you can put a finger on, but yes, it’s as though this whole bizarre world has stopped exercising, because they’re addicted to electronic devices rather than the here-and-now of physicality.

Theodore Twombly writes brilliant letters for people.  I am a bit mystified, not sure I understand, but maybe it’s a metaphor.  The role was made for Joaquin Phoenix, the man who self-destructed in full view of the whole world.  Given his public meltdown, he seems ideal for this man who’s not ready for a relationship with a real woman because he’s so immersed in his own head.  So instead of a relationship with another live woman, why not his super-sensitive operating system?

Jonze is a nice guy creating a piece of art about the human heart, not a prophet nor an accurate critic of information technology.  It’s an extended metaphor rather than a real prediction.  I suspect that IT nerds will not buy this for a few reasons:

  • Because if the operating system were a purchased product, there would be physical  add-ons, a sexual wii that would likely blow your mind (right? surely microsoft or google or apple would think of it and make a fortune)
  • Because if the operating system were a purchased product there would be liabilities up the yin yang, which means they’d figure it all out
  • Because if the operating system were a purchased product there would be a way to keep you hooked into progressive upgrades & improvements, so that they could keep making money off you, monetizing your obsession. I know this precisely because it’s alien to what makes me tick.

Be that as it may, it’s a film that disturbs for all the right reasons: because of the questions it asks, because of a new world we see portrayed.

Speaking of “Phoenix” I feel glad that this talented performer is rising from the ashes of his previous meltdown.  While i don’t pretend to understand what goes on inside his head, i was shocked that he didn’t win an oscar for his portrayal of Johnny Cash, when Reese Witherspoon did, playing his wife. 

I’m glad he’s back.

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