I haven’t written about a movie in quite some time now. It’s probably because there is only a certain kind of movie that really gets to me – a balanced confluence of poignant story-telling and moving cinematography. That’s really all any movie is, I guess.. narrative and visual. But there’s something else movies do too; they serve as reflections of our humanity, both beautiful and desperate. Her is a beautiful exploration of that humanity, asking us so many questions about what it means to be human and what it means to be more.
Now if you’re not the artsy type, if you don’t go to movies for poetry (rather for humor or thrills), then you definitely will not enjoy this movie. And there’s certainly nothing wrong with that at all. I’m sure its acclaim is coming from others in the film and arts communities who are willing to subject themselves to quiet and intense introspection, which even I’ll admit is not always enjoyable. Enjoyable isn’t a word that I would use to describe this movie. In fact, I’ll go so far as to use “unnerving”. Unnerving in a sense that it is a futuristic movie about romance that seems all too possible.
If I were still in high school, Her would be perfect fodder for my Theory of Knowledge class. Yes, you read right and yes, I was/am definitely a nerd and we had a class where we talked about the origins of knowledge, philosophizing til our brains were turned inside out. Back then, I actually examined a film for that class that is very similar to Her (and maybe even less believable), The Shape of Things. These movies made you ask, make you wonder, what makes things “real”. And what our definition of “real” actually is. That word is like other words we debate – art, beauty, truth. What makes something an actual thing?
Her challenges our ideas of romance and our definition of what constitutes a relationship. We have relationships with people, we have relationships with animals, and why can we not have relationships with things? Especially if that thing is able to communicate an equal level of consciousness and feeling. There have been countless plots and story lines about the idea of how AI would change our reality, but this is the first to examine, and beautifully at that, how it would affect our humanity on a basic level. Forget the government overthrow, mind control, and the like. The idea of another intelligence – artificial or alien – makes you wonder what is human other than a biological species?
I don’t have answers to any of these questions. But my answer to “did you like this movie” is definitely yes. It illuminated a poignant vision of our future and calls to attention to the problem in which the more wired and connected we become, the easier it will be to remove oneself from real-time reality. The movie was shot in a retro-futuristic aesthetic (yes I just made that up but I realize it applies to so many things), utilizing color and form in a very Modernist way that makes it feel as much like a memory as it does a prediction. It all felt so clean and so thoughtful, poised at a distance that feels just close enough to be relatable.
I also want to add in the fact that this movie is much more of a romance than it is science fiction. The situation given to us is set in the future, but the feelings and the emotions experienced are rooted in the same human responses we endure today.