On the fabric of artificial intelligence, director Spike Jonze sketches the story of ‘Her’ (2013). Theodore, the protagonist and a professional letter writer, longs for love while getting over an unwanted divorce and searches purpose and meaning of life. It's a film that is first and foremost a love story but also raises questions about our place in this universe, writes Arafat-Al-Yeasin
HER is a love story, unlike anything you've ever seen. It deals with all the things that unite us and the things that divide us. This film was released in 2013 and directed by Spike Jonze. Hoyte van Hoytema’s top-tier cinematography is one of the many aspects that will keep you invested in this film. The incredible Joaquin Phoenix along with Amy Adams and Scarlett Johansson is the lead cast of this film who did justice to their names in case of portraying their demanding characters perfectly.
Theodore, the protagonist of the film, inhabits in a world that is one of convenience and comfort, a world much like our own. His life is one of detachment and of isolation. He finds solace in his work where all of his deeply felt emotions can be transposed onto others. An impending divorce from his wife that he doesn't want, but then he finds rejuvenation in an AI integrated operating system; he begins to have a relationship with.
One of the major themes at play in this movie is purpose. As human complex social beings, we all search for meaning in our lives; we all want to know why we are here and what we should make out of our lives. And I believe that Her gives us the answer to that question.
We are here to love. We see the melancholic, meandering life that Theodore leads in the wake of his separation. We see his passiveness towards human interaction, his nature of isolation until he meets Samantha, a computer-generated program he seems to just live vicariously in other's romance as he professionally writes for other people that often involve highly emotional subject matters.
Theodore longs for that kind of human connection again, it's why he refuses to sign his divorce papers, he's still holding onto the possibility of things changing. He still misses his wife badly and wants her in his life again. He needs love to give him purpose and falling for Samantha gives him that purpose. But, there can never be any tangible or physical connection between the two and it starts to weighs more on both of them.
The relationship comes to a closure after a scene where Samantha confesses to Theodore that she is in love with several hundred other people. A beautiful and heartbreaking scene where Theodore breaks into tears and no passersby doesn’t care to come near him to ask what happened, that shows the isolation and disconnection between people in our modern society, one of the key messages that the film has to offer.
We all long for deep human connection but most of us lack the courage to interact with people around us so we turn introverts, we check messages and the news, listening to music, we disengage from the rest of the world — in terms of direct human connection.
We can't escape our vessels nor can we escape our death. And like most of us, Theodore is so encapsulated with the idea of romantic love that we are blinded to so many other aspects of life. Throughout the entire story Theodore is only looking for engaging with someone romantically. Not realising the fact that love has many other forms.
The film utilises many tools to bring us into Theodore's world but the one I would like to mention is the use of colour. He is often clothed in red, a colour most commonly associated with love and passion while most of the other characters are dressed in more muted colours. The colour red shows up in several crucial scenes and give us a deeper understanding of the characters.
In the final scene, we see Theodore goes to Amy who's dressed in red a symbol that represents his acceptance of things, a newfound eagerness in the idea of friendship and love two friends can share and how beautiful relations can be. To find purpose in life without being romantically involved with someone else is I think one of the major teachings of this masterpiece.
The very idea of romantic love is socially constructed in such a way that we let it sink its hooks so deep inside of us we forget how to love any other ways sometimes. I think the message of the film at the end of the day is the value of non-romantic relationships, and the value in discovering yourself because at the end of the film we see the protagonist becoming a published author, a dream he's always had. We see him truly let go of Catherine in a beautifully handwritten letter. Finally Theodor has written something for himself in the form of a letter.
Sometimes we need a little insanity in our lives to feel like really living that kind of love is hard near impossible but absolutely worth fighting for when you feel it. To learn not to let something so fragile destroy your life and sense of purpose is equally important. That to me is the most important lesson in the film.
It's a film that is first and foremost a love story but also raises questions about our place in this universe, the direction our society is going and what our future world may become and what it means to be human.
With the sheer value of its technicality, Her is a film that challenges us to see the world in a different way and to see ourselves differently too and to be grateful to be a part of this world because for all its heartbreak and chaos and it's all we have and we can all make something special out of it we can all find meaning in this world and that meaning is in love and not just romantic love but love for all things; nature, work, friends and most importantly though sometimes the most difficult, love for yourself.
Arafat-Al-Yeasin is a student of University of Dhaka.
Want stories like this in your inbox?
Sign up to exclusive daily email
More Stories from Art Culture