A couple of weeks ago I wrote a blog post about the new Spike Jonze film, Her. The basis of the post was the different thoughts that occurred to me whilst watching the film, spanning from thoughts about technology to relationships and communication. Upon reflection I have thought about the film more and have realised one element that I liked about it the most: talking.
It’s an unconventional love story, taking place between a man and an operating system on a computer, but if you remove the idea of Samantha being a computer then the way she and Theodore fell in love seems more normal; they just started talking. That’s all they did, they had time to kill together and so just made conversation, talking about the smallest things. I think for a modern film to focus on this is very admirable.
Too many romantic films focus heavily upon physical appearance being the basis of characters falling in love. I’m red up of seeing boring and unimaginative films that are filled with comments like “oh my god he’s gorgeous!” or “hey dude she’s hot”. I found Her rather refreshing because it removes this element entirely, it wasn’t about physical appearance at all. In fact when Samantha sets up a scenario in which physical appearance comes in to the equation it doesn’t work, Theodore isn’t able to go through with it. There’s a real focus on the talking and it’s quite beautiful.
The film makes sense to me because of what happened between me and my girlfriend, Micaela, before we got together. We both attended a Halloween party last year, and this was the point in which I clearly liked her and people know about it. I had my friends constantly saying “kiss her! kiss her!”. I didn’t want to rush in to it in case she didn’t want to, so I decided to take my time. Now by this point I already thought she was beautiful, she had these I just kept drifting off in to, all I had to do was not embarrass myself by being an idiot in conversation. We had spoken before many times but this was the stage in which I was thinking of making a move and so I had to choose my words carefully. And basically what ended up happening was that for the next three hours we were stood in the kitchen talking. It was really nice just to talk to someone without any distractions, and I fell in love. I fell absolutely head over heels. Granted it took another two weeks for me to pluck up the courage and kiss her, but I’m glad we shared the night of Halloween together, talking. It was one of those nights I look back on with great fondness, and I know I always will.
So, the point of raising that anecdote was to show that talking helped me not only find a girlfriend, but a best friend too, and that’s exactly what happens to Theodore in Her. I really liked how Jonze’s script was very dialogue heavy because it makes the relationship more believable, thus allowing you to build a connection with the characters. They’re three dimensional, so a sense of pathos is built at the right moments and then a lack of sympathy is even better placed.
Again like I said in the original post I like how the film doesn’t necessarily have a happy ending, because it’s more realistic. I like the cyclical nature of the narrative; it was talking that started the relationship and then it’s talking that inevitably breaks it back down. It’s strong willed because it doesn’t try to explain the relationship in terms of fate; it clearly places the success and the failure of the film on human behaviour (and computer behaviour if you’re going to be picky and go down that route). It’s a rather Roman styled ending. It reminded me somewhat of Virgil’s Aeneid which is famous for having an abrupt ending because it displays the brutal reality of human behaviour. That’s what Her presents, it’s not an ending where scores are settled and people are happy, it’s more realistic than that. It’s aimed at a more mature audience who can handle what the real world is like without needing to dress it up and make you believe people are always happy.
Thinking about it the film reminds me very much of Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise in which Julia Delpy and Ethan Hawke spend the entire film talking and building this relationship that’s somewhere between love and friendship. The two films have common ground because they’re based upon two people falling in love because they took and they talked. It’s like I said in my last blog post about film series in which I talked about Before Sunrise: sometimes the best weapon in a film maker’s arsenal is well written screenplay, and that’s exactly what you’ll find in Her as well.
The film also reminds me of Calvin from the film Ruby Sparks because much like he writes Ruby to be his ideal partner, Theodore has Samantha who is programmed to fulfil his every need. And in both cases the relationship doesn’t last, but I like that about the films. It shows how love isn’t about a checklist or criteria or even about controlling your partner; love is more uncertain than that. The two films deliver the same message about how falling in love is exciting because it’s unexpected. It’s like going to an airport and booking the first flight you see without knowing what you’ll do when you land. It’s about going out there without expectations, and finding something genuinely special. The problems faced by Theodore and Calvin arose because they expected too much of their partners and tried to mould them in to whatever they wanted them to be. If you look at films like the previously mentioned Before Sunrise it’s clear that the relationship worked because it was about loving someone for who they are, rather than for something they could be. And that’s a message I think we can all take away from the film.
I still maintain that I really like Her, it’s delicate and thought provoking and so proved to be a rather unique film experience. I’ve completed two blog posts on the film now and I still have more things to discuss so expect a third installment to follow in due course. The original blog post can be found on the link below:
But enough about me, I want to know what you think. I’m curious to know what other people have made of the film, so please feel free to leave a comment. If you leave a comment I’ll get back to you as soon as I can, either with a straight forward reply or with a blog post dedicated to you.