Sunday, 19 January 2014

10th Post: Her

Her is poetic. It is aesthetic perfection. It is quiet beauty.

Director Spike Jonze's mesmeric portrayal of new love in a new world bring back memories of one emblematic and culturally significant film. The parallels that can be drawn between Her and Sofia Coppola's nostalgic and lonely Lost in Translation are many. In innovative and artistic fashion Spike Jonze has simply conveyed the traditional message of universal love in a higher and more unusual medium.

Set in the not-too-distant future, Jonze has carved out an unlikely romance between a lonesome letter writer, Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix), in the final stages of his divorce and an OS. The OS is an operating system  designed to suit the needs of every user that has revolutionised the way humans endeavour to love. Theodore becomes increasingly attached to his OS, Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johansson), so that progressively he comes to question his place, right and ability to love her.  

Perhaps the most exceptional attribute of the film is its distinctive approach to montages. Smooth and natural, the moments are lit with readable sentiment and cleverly used to illustrate Theodore's streams of consciousness. These compilation of memories are almost always silent - incorporating the music or the sounds the Theodore hears as he is remembering. Rooney Mara appears as Catherine, Theodore's soon to be divorcee, in many of these montages. She invades his consciousness frequently at the beginning of the film - capturing almost wordlessly both the joy and then the breakdown of their relationship. A meeting between Catherine and Theodore to finalise the divorce results in an exciting and insightful catharsis on Catherine's part. I,  like the rest of the world, am quite enchanted by the ruthless talent that is Rooney Mara. This all began when I first came across her quick-smart mesmerising back-and-forth with Jesse Eisenberg in The Social Network. She had not 10 minutes of screen-time in either film but she never fails to leave a deep impression in her intense assertions and unwavering glares.   

The plot wanders at times, however never too far that it loses the intrigue of the audience. We see Theodore on picnics with Samantha - at beaches, enjoying cruises and on holidays in cold empty snowy woods. Jonze handles the material delicately. It would've been easy, due to the unusual premise of the film, to have it uncomfortable and somewhat satirical but Jonze is patient. Rather than forcing the idea on the audience, he allows us to slowly become familiar and comfortable with it.  

Her of course is also wondrously nice to look at. The geometrics of the new world and the nuances of today are everywhere. The future setting that Jonze has created is dazzling yet simple and entirely believable. From the muted neutral coloured clothing to pastel public architecture to the small progressions in technology such as in video games, museums and in Theodore's own home. The positive direction of a greener, cleaner future that Jonze has gone for in this film is rather refreshing from the drastic dystopian/utopian depictions that dominate cinema today (e.g. The Hunger Games, The Dark Knight, In Time). The only other film where I have seen this subtle portrayal of a future was in the gorgeously affected Never Let Me Go. I would be quite content to watch 2 hours of a broad city tour in near-future Los Angeles by Spike Jonze.    

Her handles sparse dialogue well however without quite as much skill as Sofia Coppola (e.g. Somewhere). With ripe (although few) comedic elements, Her also manages to incorporate some memorable humour. 
So many of the scenes created by Jonze are remarkably distinctive and singular. They come together in seamless fashion to bring to the viewer a rare cinematic spectacle.


Her has now been released internationally. In Australia however only few cinemas are showing including all Palace cinemas and certain Village cinemas.  

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