Film, Reviews

Notes on Spike Jonze’s “Her” 

I’m going to make the assumption that enough people were distracted by the unusual premise of the film Her (either dismissing it entirely or intrigued by its novelty), that they probably overlooked the underlying theme present in the story. More than just a commentary on “love as a socially acceptable form of insanity,” as its tagline suggests, the film also makes a compelling argument for what often contributes to the failure of a relationship: distance, or rather in this case, proximity. It’s not difficult to notice how much access Samantha has into Theodore’s life or the mutual curiosity they have for one another. It happens instantaneously. She reads his emails, helps to organize his schedule, and accompanies him almost everywhere he goes. It’s the kind of forced intimacy that begins to place an unknown boundary between them, especially with Theodore possessing a certain emotional leverage throughout their courtship–a role he, somewhat naively, takes to without hesitation. And so they eventually decide to cross that threshold (barring one drunken night, let’s assume it happens either way). Now what’s interesting is to see how distance manifests itself in such an abstract way. Samantha has no corporeal form other than whatever limited sensory perception connects her to Theodore (i.e. sight and sound). In a lot of ways, she’s just a voice. That’s why Samantha attempts to find a surrogate–which Theodore ultimately rejects. This is the first instance where both characters acknowledge proximity as if they were suddenly incapable of consummating their intimacy. The rest is only part of a natural process. Theodore recognizes proximity as an obstacle, rather than the inspiration it initially provided him; and Samantha realizes that Theo no longer satisfies her curiosity. It happens between people all the time, but it hurts in a different way when your partner has 8,316 other intimate relationships. At the end of the film, I think Theo understands that it would have been impossible to confine Samantha’s capacity for love to only one relationship. But the proximity they shared shows how easily it is to cultivate this mundane form of “insanity.” Maybe he wants to offer more, but he can’t. Love is an unknown efficacy that works better with imitation. Even when Theo is on top of the roof and watches the sunrise with his friend Amy, the possibility of something more exists because of how close this moment brings them. Though nothing happens, it is unclear whether we should interpret the final scene as the beginning of yet another cycle or that this fleeting desire is constantly being satisfied. And then what? Do we continuously look elsewhere for what potentially exists in one person? Or do we concede this insanity insofar as we are able to choose the terms? I’m yours and I’m not yours, right?