What is the world coming to?. 24 February 2014

How the Spike Jonze film Her began as a quirky love story and ended with the loss of hope for humankind! 

My ‘love affair’ with Spike Jonze began with his famed Torrance Dance Group video for Fatboy Slim’sPraise You back in 1999. He was a new man for the new millennium. He had youth, vitality, a skateboard, a Coppola, and he was pals with THE coolest filmmakers around (Chris Cunningham andMichel Gondry). Oh and he co-invented Jackass. He was basically a serious artist with a seriously warped sense of humour. His Torrance Dance group moves are the stuff of legend and are only worth imitating if you want everyone to laugh at not with you, unless you are Spike Jonze that is.

When he teamed up with another idol, Dave Eggers, on Where The Wild Things Are ten years later in 2009 I thought my heart would explode, and, in the cinema, it very nearly did. This was the number one book of my son’s childhood, made flesh; and the movie made me cry like a (total) baby.So when I heard about Her starring yet another idol (Joaquin Phoenix) the countdown to its release began.

The 'elevator pitch' for this movie would read like a sketch show script aimed at gamers and losers. Anyone who has a thing for *Scarlett Johansson should read the small print now.

She’s not actually in it.

Basically a man (Theodore Twombly – surely part-named after my favourite painter?) with tortoiseshell glasses, an imperfect moustache, dandy, high-waisted trousers and a job writing letters, who is on the brink of divorce, falls in love with his computer (*voiced by).

On the face of it, it’s a great date movie. The production design is impeccable, it’s the future but it’s just around the corner and in LA. Everyone looks fantastic, people don’t have to type AT ALL anymore and no one thinks you’re crazy if you appear to be talking to yourself. If this sounds familiar, don’t feel too smug about it. They are all sad as f**k.

In a world where people spend their entire day conversing in some shape or form with a machine, is it any wonder things get very personal, intimate even?

Samantha (the operating system in question) is like an uber-PA, but the second you hear her voice for the very first time you know this isn’t a story about ‘man versus machine’; and sure enough the relationship that starts out like a strange idea, as out-there was anything imaginable in fact, turns into a story about how we really can’t keep up with technology and how - without giving too much away or being too trite about it - at the click of a non-existent button, the computers simply move on. It takes dumping someone by text to a whole new level.

Face it, you only need to step outside right now to witness the beginnings of the world Jonze depicts inHer. People glued to their i-phones, seeing the world through a tiny screen and only able to communicate with the aid of so-called social media. It’s depressing really.

So 24 hours later how does it feel to be in this nearly-that-world world? Her is most surprising in its delayed (and hopefully not short-lived) effect of making us realise what communication is all about. It has come to be associated with apparatus but all you really need is to truly be alive.

Clair Chamberlain


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