Imagine a technology that, with use, starts to learn everything you do. It listens to what you say and follows your clicks to gradually evolve and predict your steps. As a result, she gets to know you better than anyone around her. Whatever appears on your devices is what will please you the most.
The above description certainly encompasses what we are currently seeing in artificial intelligence, including the popular ChatGPT. However, it also summarizes well the plot imagined by the director. Spike Jonze ten years ago. In 2013, it was launched Hera very impressive film for the time and that even today raises questions that deserve to be discussed.
starring joaquin phoenix It is Scarlett Johansson (who never appears on stage, and acts only with the voice), Her tells the story of a lonely man who inhabits a relatively different future in Los Angeles, but increasingly closer to our current reality. In this scenario, technologies solve almost everything we need: they organize our appointments, summarize the news, entertain us in traffic, make it possible for us to have sex even when no one is around.
As a result, people are present on the streets, but are mentally isolated by their gadgets (Any resemblance to our everyday life is not mere coincidence). Theodore Twombly (played by Phoenix) is just another lonely guy walking around this town. He works at a company called BeautifulHandWrittenLetters.com, and his craft is a mockery in itself: for years, he’s been writing personalized (and handwritten!) letters to clients who hire them to send missives to people they love.
Love, in the film, is part of commerce. But even with so many possibilities to contract affection, Theodore is deeply lonely and melancholy. He suffers from his recent divorce and seems paralyzed in his melancholy. But things are about to change when a new technology hits the market: an operating system so advanced it seems to have a human soul.
an unusual dystopia
At the time of its launch, Her caused a lot of backlash and seemed to be foreshadowing a future that sounded a little scary, in which technologies would be more empathetic and “human” than people themselves. Due to the gradual isolation of society (and no one even dreamed that we would go through two whole years of a pandemic due to Covid-19), the film seemed like a kind of denunciation of what was to come.
But there is an important detail here: Spike Jonze is a director sophisticated enough not to fall into cheap moralism around a pessimistic speech about technologies. One can even understand Her as a love story, with light touches of comedy.. But, in essence, it is a deeply sad work.
The artificial intelligence that Theodore tests is called Samantha (a name she defines after flipping through a book of more than a thousand pages in less than a second). Already at the beginning, Samantha reveals her autonomy when explaining that she chose her name simply by taste-or, as she explains, by intuition.
We are in an environment, therefore, in which we teach machines to “think” in a very similar way to us (and, once again, any similarity…). Her explains here that the idea of technological advancement, instituted under the label of progress, it serves so many times to teach autonomous mechanisms to do what we already do.
There is a long cinematography that imagines what the machines will be able to perform in the future, or even in the present. Some science fiction classics solidified an apocalyptic vision of this scenario – such as killer robots that traverse time, in Terminatoror cyborgs that insert themselves in the middle of cities to kill us, in blade runner.
Spike Jonze’s film is one of the most prominent of a relatively recent era, in which it is understood that these technologies can cause more subtle transformations, and that they cannot be seen as negative in a simple way. The story told in Her seems to tell us: if men have designed a world in which technologies isolate us, it is even expected that they will invent machines to get us out of isolation.
a melancholy future
(Source: Netflix)Source: Netflix
But of course, the idea of living in a world where we relate more to robots than to people is not a pleasant one. On account of this, Her caused a lot of discussion due to its perceived sad premise.. In a reality where discord is the rule, and we are less and less tolerant of the faults of others, will our last hope of finding affection be in machines?
Her is able to move, in part, due to the sweet and somewhat surreal aesthetic created by the director, in continuity with his other works (such as the sensational Ser John Malkovich, from 1999). Theodore inhabits an environment that is surrounded by a beautiful soundtrack and eye-pleasing pastel colors – as if everything around him was packaged by an Instagram filter. Like his few friends, he lives in a spacious apartment overlooking a wide view of Los Angeles that seems infinite and beautiful, but with people who are always walking alone.
This is a movie with a low amount of action. Basically, the center of the story is in the interactions between Theodore and Samantha, which create an affectionate relationship that is as perfect as it is impossible to become complete, since there is no corporeality in Samantha. In addition, it is clear that it seems impossible to think of the operating system without “filling in” the voice with the beautiful voluptuous figure of actress Scarlett Johansson. Perhaps an unknown actress would work better in this regard.
Ten years after its release, the romance of this “couple”, as perfect as it is wrong, sounds more and more like a close reality in a universe in which many feel that establishing relationships exacts a high price and that it is not always worth paying. Like a children’s tale that carries important messages, Her deserves to be seen and revisited whenever possible.