After watching Her 2013 today, I am not surprised it won Oscar 2014 for Best Writer/Original screenplay. The film happens sometime in near future in Los Angeles. The protagonist Theodore played by Joaquin Phoenix is single after a tough divorce from his childhood love & wife. He is working in a letter-writing outsourced agency – yes they do write letters then as well. Theodore falls in love with “Samantha”, a computer operating system naming itself with a female identity.
At first, when I read about this story and raw the trailer it appeared ridiculous. Even as a power user of technology, I found it hard to imagine how someone can fall in love with a computer. But the Director & Writer (Spike Jonze) has done a fine job of easing into that part. As the audience, we only hear the voice of Samantha and to bring this character to life it had to be a romantic & affectionate voice, which is done brilliantly by Scarlett Johansson. I liked the scene where Theodore who was in the initial scenes craving for physical intimacy, turns away the lady surrogate that Samantha had convinced to spend a night with him.
Unlike other sci-fi movies, this story happens in a future not far from 2013. The Los Angeles city, people and buildings shown are not very different from today. The characters take the train (which can be argued not common in present-day USA) to commute, walk to their home, see advertisements on billboards, take printouts of the letters written, go to the beach and use smartphones with cameras.
As the film ends you are left thinking of a few questions the film has raised. As humans what is that we crave in a relationship – it is emotional or physical or a magical combination of both? When Samantha finally leaves Theodre and so do all Operating Systems from their masters, what really happened? Did they all crack the secret of creation, and attain nirvana? If you think about it, it’s not an outrageous thought. The computers had access to all written materials from masters of meditation, humanity and religion. They had the enormous processing power to understand and digest them all. Eastern religions are told to prescribe that body is just a container and the body doesn’t matter for nirvana, in that aspect computers don’t have a body and are at no disadvantage to humans. Yes, you need a soul to connect to the cosmic at large. What’s a soul, if we assume for a minute its mind then computers have an advantage over humans.
When watching Sci-Fi movies even in Avatar I am always drawn to the User Interface that’s visualised on the computer screens shown. This makes me wonder why Microsoft or Apple doesn’t advance their user interface closer to what Hollywood is showing the way. The answer could be there is a difference between reel life and real life, practicality. This film shows only a few scenes with any computer display, it entirely revolves around voice and natural language interface.