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The Beautiful Melancholia of Spike Jonze's 'Her'

















Spike Jonze’s new movie is one of these films that doesn’t let you totally intact once you have witnessed how an operating system can break your heart, and in this case not any heart, but Joaquin Phoenix’s. The movie could hardly be qualified of science fiction, of course it’s pretty amazing to see that in a no-so-distant future pretty and clean Los Angeles won’t have any cars and that the subway will drive you right to the beach, but the rest doesn’t seem too futuristic to me: technology has already invaded our lives so much, people are already so absorbed by their smartphones and other electronic devices, that we can totally imagine a new OS organizing our hard drive, sorting our emails and talking to us with Scarlett Johansson’s sexy voice. As a matter of fact this partially already exists.

Joaquin Phoenix plays shy and sensible Theodore Twombly (yes this same last name than artist Cy Twombly), a writer with the strangest job ever, as he writes beautiful and eloquent letters (mostly love letters of all kinds) for other people who can’t even bother to do it. Recently separated from his wife, he goes through a devastating divorce and looks like a rescued puppy dog, as one woman he tries to date tells him. He seems lost and painfully lonely, but his life changes when he gets a new OS, talking with a very friendly female voice. Nice and super-smart Samantha is always there, listening to him and answering right to his left ear thanks to an earpiece, but she is much more than a desk-and-appointment organizer, she writes melancholic piano pieces, she develops feelings and desires, and naturally, Theodore becomes closer and closer to her. ‘I am not going to stalk you’, she declares at the beginning of their relationship, however, very soon he considers he dates her, and of course they end up making love. Their relationship is amazing, cute, sincere and simple like a night at the carnival or a day at the beach. Theodore couldn’t communicate with his ex-wife but he has a blast expressing everything to Samantha, who is excited about all aspects of life. They talk for hours and she sees the outside world through a lens on his pocket device. It’s true that she is completely devoted to him and his need, probably unable to lie to him, programmed to be perfect and much easier to deal with than any real woman. She is also very alive, so alive that she even hires a human surrogate to act as her body so they can be physically intimate… let’s just say it doesn’t work so well as Theodore is very disturbed by the awkward situation.

How can you fall in love with someone who isn’t physically there, and doesn’t even have a body? Will Artificial Intelligence reach soon this level of disturbing creepiness? The movie asks many questions, but overall ‘Her’ is a very moving romance – a doomed one of course – as, more than being a movie about A. I., it well could be a movie about feelings and the difficulty to live and express them. Theodore thinks that he has felt everything he could ever feel and that he will never feel anything new, until Samantha makes him feel again.

It’s a beautifully sad movie but it is also very funny, at one point, Amy (Amy Adams), Theodore’s female close friend who is also going through a divorce, realizes that this OS-human dating business is becoming a reality, as she says, ‘I know a woman who is dating an OS and it’s not even hers!’ Of course the movie works very well because of Joaquin Phoenix’ fantastic embodiment of heartbroken and lonely Theodore. He looks so uncomfortable with his life that the role fits him like a glove, but we all know that Phoenix can play everything with the same sincerity and authenticity. There’s also a great chemistry between he and Johansson, whom, sorry guys, isn’t visible at all during the whole movie, but their relationship is very real and palpable.

And the music? You will have to stay till the end of the credits to hear Arcade Fire’s ‘Supersymmetry’, a song originally composed for the movie but finally reworked for their ‘Reflektor’ album. I must say I was expecting to hear it sooner, but pay attention since instrumental variation of the same song recorded with Owen Pallett, is also featured on the score – just watch the trailers below. There is also a new and melancholic song by Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Karen O, ‘The Moon Song’ during a cute moment with Joaquin playing ukulele.

It’s a movie about loneliness and love, feelings all of us are probably very familiar with, and it may totally change your relationship with your computer! But the film is about many things, it questions our fear of real human relationships in our world of false connections through technology, it questions the true nature of love and it let me wonder…. Could love ever be a totally cerebral experience, just a head-trip?

Here is the complete soundtrack:

“Off You” The Breeders
“When You Know You’re Gonna Die” Arcade Fire
“Cleopatra in New York (Zim Zam Mix)” Nickodemus
“Alien Child” Will Collins
“Super Symmetry” Arcade Fire
“Magnesium” N.A.S.A.
“I’m So Glad” Entrance
“The Moon Song” Scarlett Johansson and Joaquin Phoenix
“Racing Turtles” Barrie Gledden, Tim Reilly and Jason Pedder
“8 Bit Disco No. 3” Philip Guyler
“Need Your Love So Bad” Little Willie John
“Sure of Love” The Chantels
“Dimensions” Arcade Fire
“The Moon Song” Karen O.

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