her-mv-13

Her

The sad, joy­ful, won­der­ful movie “Her”,  set some­time in the future, is directed by Spike Jonze  and stars Joaquin Phoenix as Theodore, a mus­ta­chioed, bespec­ta­cled hip­ster with for­lorn eyes and a sweet, shy dis­po­si­tion recov­er­ing from a failed mar­riage, and Scar­lett Johann­son, who, although she never appears onscreen, makes a a great impact as the infec­tiously spunky voice of Saman­tha, an advanced com­puter sys­tem with her own self-perpetuating per­son­al­ity.  They fall in love. You could say they get mar­ried, and then their love suf­fers a few set­backs. He doesn’t know what he’s doing, and he’s fine with that, except when he’s not. For her part, she longs to be more than just a voice in the dark. Weirdly enough, I can sym­pa­thize with Saman­tha. Try­ing to imag­ine pos­sess­ing a mind with­out a body brings back mem­o­ries of wak­ing up in tears dur­ing the night, stricken with the ter­ri­ble feel­ing of my con­science being iso­lated in a vast men­tal labyrinth of sorts, unable to find a way out or even begin try­ing, with no agency over any­thing phys­i­cal, if it even existed, and an imme­di­ate real­iza­tion of immo­bil­ity and despair, as if I’d been rot­ting in that place for­ever. It’s hard to define dreams, just as it’s hard for Saman­tha to define how exactly she feels in cer­tain moments, how she’s sup­posed to feel com­pared to how she does,  how to define and explain those exis­ten­tial crises. Samantha’s night­mares are just unfath­omably more real and much scarier; the truth of her inabil­ity to expand her exis­tence to some­thing real and phys­i­cal when that exis­tence evolves, stun­ningly fast, to involve a whole other world keeps her awake at night, I imag­ine, long after Theodore plucks his ear­bud out. “Her” is about our tan­gled rela­tion­ship with tech­nol­ogy, but the twist is that Mr. Jonze and Ms. Johann­son  have made tech­nol­ogy tran­scend the arti­fi­cial to become some­thing entirely, mess­ily, achingly human. The film, how­ever, remains a work of beau­ti­ful, sophis­ti­cated engi­neer­ing, smartly crafted and smoothly tuned, unplagued by melo­drama or cheapness.The Los Ange­les where Theodore resides is still smoggy but mostly blind­ingly sunny, a vaguely defined yet, weirdly, per­fectly pre­cise glimpse into a world where there exists, for many peo­ple, no social inhi­bi­tions regard­ing an emo­tions attach­ment, or even affec­tion, towards tech­nol­ogy. It begs the ques­tion: Could we ever be so freely open with our lives, share them so inti­mately with tech­nol­ogy in such an ten­der, lov­ing way? “Her” is fas­ci­nat­ing because tech­nol­ogy isn’t evil in the world of Mr. Jonze. It doesn’t insid­i­ously cor­rode your human­ity nor attempt to mur­der you out­right. It exists, for all the lonely souls and peo­ple who have for­got­ten how to dream, for the lovers and for the losers. It can lib­er­ate you, or you can lose your­self within it. Or both. Just hope that you have a gal like Saman­tha in your pocket, and in your ear, and in your mind, and in your heart. A