Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Spike Jonze's "Her" Raises Many Ethical and Philosophical Questions

      From a sociological perspective, Her was very intriguing and raised a lot of ethical questions which were fun and interesting to ponder while watching.  That being said, the movie was not the romantic comedy the previews billed it to be.  
      Theodore Twombly is an introverted and quiet middle aged man going through a devastating divorce.  Ironically working at a company which writes personal love letters for people, Theodore goes through the motions of his average life wondering if this is it.  If he will ever feel the happiness he felt with his now ex-wife or if he is destined to only feel lesser versions of all the times he spent with her.  He has supportive friends and a comfortable life but what Theodore desperately wants is to love and to be loved once again.  
      No year is specified, but the “near future” the film takes place in shows a society not too far from our own.  Every single person has a small earpiece which they speak to constantly.  It reads them their email, gives them messages, and searches the web, anything you desire.  As such, humans have becoming increasingly disconnected from each other, similar to how many people in our society today claim that the smartphone and social media have destroyed personal human interaction.  This only compounds Theodore’s problems as he finds it increasingly difficult to meet someone meaningful.  That all changes with the invention of OS1, a personalized, artificially intelligent operating system available for purchase which promises to be anything you want it to be.  
      Theodore decides to give it a try and after booting it up and answering a few basic questions, Samantha is born.  Voiced by Scarlett Johansson, Samantha instantly makes a connection with Theodore.  The two become fast friends as Theodore and Samantha have conversation after conversation with each other.  Constantly connected via his earpiece, Samantha is only a click away whenever Theodore wishes to talk to her and after a while, the viewer begins to feel as though she is a physical person that he’s speaking to on the phone.  She can even see and comment on the world around him via his “smartphone”, a tiny tablet which connects to his earpiece that Theodore carries around in his breast pocket.  
      Here’s where the movie starts to delve into some deep philosophical and ethical questions.  Samantha is, for all intents and purposes, a person.  She can think, learn, feel, make decisions, be angry, sad, happy, frustrated, depressed, you name it.  The two have many conversations about what she is.  Is she just a computer program or something more?  As the two fall in love, become intimate, and begin to pursue a more meaningful relationship these questions become all the more imperative and you quickly begin to realize that there is no direct answer.  Not only a commentary on love, Her is a commentary on life itself and what it truly means to BE alive.  
      Director Spike Jonze does a fabulous job at subtly dealing with these questions alongside some superb acting, particularly by Johansson.  At the end of the day however, the movie is an overall depressing story and one that leaves you with more questions than answers.  But in a way, that’s the point.  Does anyone really have a definitive answer to life or love?  No, just like Theodore, we simply have to dive in feet first and hope everything works out.

No comments:

Post a Comment