In his first film since 2009’s Where The Wild Things Are, Spike Jonze ventures into new territory with the rom-com for the Apple age, Her. Alex Johnson writes for Berlin Film Journal ahead of the film’s German release at the end of March.
Directed by Spike Jonze, 125 Minutes.
Her, written and directed by Spike Jonze, is a beautiful melancholic and well constructed piece pitted with humour that uses its sci-fi setting as a platform to explore the evolving nature of love.
Jonze’s near-future displays only subtle differences from today, bar a lack of any noticeable poverty or pollution. It is a future where everyone is almost permanently plugged in to their computers, of stylish high-speed trains and open offices, and where for some reason the colour orange and high-waisted charcoal slacks are fashionable. But his vision of a utopian, connected future only serves as a backdrop for the very contemporary question of what impact our ever-developing dependence on machines has on ourselves and our relationships.
The plot of Her follows a relatively simple narrative of the love, loss and loneliness of Joaquin Phoenix’s Theodore who proceeds to deal with his lack of ‘real’ intimacy by developing a companionship, then intimacy with his new Operating System. Theodore is a successful and slightly geeky letter writer who pens emotional correspondence for strangers while himself struggling to find closeness and come to terms with his failed marriage.
Although the plot follows an overt path with stark themes of isolation amid connectivity and the nature of relationships, Her can be interpreted according to the viewer’s own emotional state and interests. Therein lies much of the film’s intrigue: it’s accessibility to different people based on what they choose to take away from it.
Her raises the question of the necessity of physical contact to a relationship, an idea that resonates in an age where many people switch cities and countries at the drop of a hat and only communicate with their partners through Skype. The concept of artificial intelligence is also carefully dealt with in the film, with Scarlett Johansson’s Samantha developing as the film progresses, in an allegory to the evolving nature of the individual.
Perhaps deliberately, or perhaps because the character of Samantha was originally voiced by Samantha Morton, the chemistry between Phoenix and Johansson feels a little off at times. However, the cast pull off strong and emotive performances, especially Amy Adams as Amy the emotional mirror and only close friend to Theodore.
The true star of the film is its stunning cinematography. Colourful pastels, lens flare and soft focus backgrounds serve to illuminate Jonze’s stylised vision of a future LA; a kind of Potsdamer Platz meets Shanghai in the sun. Her is deeply enjoyable, moving and funny and will certainly leave the audience with more to ponder upon after each viewing.