What’s on my mind? A movie I have just seen. It’s written and directed by Spike Jonze and called “Her”. The movie, a romantic science fiction play, is just brilliant. I really loved it. Its outlandish and innovative theme got the movie an Oscar for the same.
The story is about a lonesome writer called Theodore who is going through an impending divorce. Theodore lives in a tiny apartment in Los Angeles high up in the sky in the nearby future. As a person, Theodore is very sensitive and perceptive of what happens around him. Then one day Theodore goes to an exposition about artificial operating systems. As such, Theodore gets acquainted with the OS, which calls herself Samantha. Theodore can share anything with her. Samantha can see things through the eyes of a smartphone camera, which Theodore carries around. He talks through her via ear plugs. She can help him organize, play games and proof read his letters.
Theodore keeps reflecting back on the past, about the good and not so good memories from his time with his ex wife with whom he grew up, going through the arguments again, pondering how he could have done things better and how they influenced each other. And Samantha can feel his pain, love and anger and as she watches lives through the eyes of Theodore, she also evolves from a programming construct to a computer with human feelings. Samantha’s main difficulty is that she misses a human body and cannot have physical contact with Theodore. Theodore then goes on a date, which is a really big thing for him, yet the date ends very awkwardly and he sends his date home.
While Theodore feels as if he cannot get back the same feeling as before and that it’s all going downhill from here, finds love in the artificial operating system. They both appreciate and share feelings of anger, fear, love, humor and creativity. Getting back a grip on himself, Theodore then decides to meet his ex to sign the paper work to finally settle the divorce. Theodore explains her that he has been seeing someone over the fast few months, Samantha, and that she is an OS. His ex gets furious and criticizes him over the fact that he cannot deal with real emotions and life. In the meantime, the husband of Theodore’s friend Amy takes a vow of silence. Theodore is very close to her and discovers that she also found love in an Operating System.
There’s one scene where Theodore is desperately reaching out for Samantha. And he cannot find her. Then it turns out she went offline for a an upgrade to the system. Theodore discovers that Samantha can apparently talk to simultaneously persons at once and that she also can fall in love with multiple people at once. Theodore collapses and Samantha leaves. At the end Amy and Theodore sit together and continue with their lives.
This whole idea of falling in love with an artificial operating system is quite absurd and silly (there’s an interesting foreplay in it), yet the film touches on two very important topics: identity and reality. Identity in how the artificial operating system, yet not constrained by time and space, has to accept it physical limitations (how a photograph can be presented through a piano play) and how to deal with this unique kind of love or reality. There’s a reference to philosopher Alan Watts and I hope to be reading more from him some time.