One of the most distinguished elements of the twenty-first century is the use of technology in our daily lives. The Internet and other technological innovations have transformed the way that we communicate and interact with others, from social media to mobile devices and artificial intelligence.
As people attempt to connect with each other through online methods, though, one must wonder how technology impacts our need for human connection, and whether these digital interactions really are that palpable and genuine. The current fascination with technology and relationships prompted Spike Jonze to compose an Oscar-winning screenplay that is essentially a love story for the modern age.
The “Best Picture” nominee Her is a well-written and innovative film that examines the impact of technology on our relationships.
Her is an original film because it analyzes love in terms of both human relationships and mankind’s relationship with technology. Joaquin Phoenix plays Theodore, a man living in a slightly futuristic Los Angeles who feels isolated and lonely due to an impending divorce from his wife. As a result, Theodore purchases an artificially intelligent operating system (OS) named “Samantha,” a computerized voice designed to suit his every need, and over time develops a meaningful bond through their conversations.
Theodore and Samantha find each other humorous and soulful, which evolves into a loving relationship even though Samantha is not human and does not possess a physical body. As time passes, though, Samantha and Theodore change as they learn more about themselves and the world around them. Spike Jonze’s Her directly reflects current social and technological trends because this love story is ultimately an allegory for how people in the current modern age can sometimes have an unhealthy relationship with modern technology.
Part of the shifting relationship between Theodore and Samantha is when they each suffer from a lack of fulfillment. Specifically, the purpose of Samantha as an artificially intelligent OS is that she was created to satisfy Theodore’s needs. As Samantha learns and changes over time, though, she becomes more “human.”
She begins to develop independent thoughts, shifting emotions, and even questions her relationship with Theodore despite being designed to please him. She changes dynamically and dramatically, and her interactions with Theodore prompt her to wonder if her relationship with him should even continue. Specifically, there is a tense moment in which Theodore is on the staircase and asks if Samantha has been talking to other people and if she loves anyone else.
This exchange, and Samantha’s explanation, shows that she is becoming less like a computer and more like a human being with independent thoughts and actions. Such a change shows that she is learning and growing, like humans, yet, ironically, Theodore is not. It’s an interesting look at how technology impacts people, such as those in the real world who become addicted to technology and social media. Can we truly connect and continue to evolve through these means, or are we losing our sense of humanity through our obsession with online forms of communication and digital interactions.?
This scene is a pivotal moment because it reveals how change is constant in both human relationships and technology, and it questions whether we can derive real connection through technology.
As Theodore becomes more obsessed with operating systems, Samantha, and computers, he begins to neglect his relationships with real people, including Amy (Amy Adams) and his ex-wife Catherine (Rooney Mara). One particular scene with Theodore and Catherine reveals mankind’s unhealthy obsession with technology and the Internet. The relationship between Theodore and Catherine disintegrates because Theodore prefers the more “perfect” Samantha as opposed to Catherine, a human being with real flaws and emotions.
In the scene, Theodore reveals that he’s moved on with Samantha, his OS. Catherine becomes indignant at the thought that he would choose an artificial construct over a real human connection. It provides insights into the role that technology plays in our lives, and how it affects our relationships with others. Within the world of technology and social media, there can be a false sense of reality because everything looks glamorous and idealized based on how things are depicted online. And this scene delves into our choice to pick technology and online interactions over actual human connection.
While technology makes our lives more convenient, Jonze uses the film to highlight the risks of our ever growing reliance on it. As technology evolves and begins to replace our need for direct human interaction, there is a reminder that computers are nothing more than artificial creations.
One of the most important scenes in this film is when Samantha breaks up with Theodore. This pivotal moment presents Samantha talking about how her relationship with Theodore was a lot like “reading a book that she deeply loved,” but that she “cannot live in [his book] anymore.”
The indefinite “book” that Samantha talks about is an important symbol because all love stories involve a narrative like a work of fiction. But on a deeper level, this reference suggests that humanity and technology are two separate stories that will eventually diverge. It asks a thought-provoking question: If we let technology replace our human connections, what will happen when it evolves beyond our control and is no longer available to us?
The film itself is a modern-day masterpiece given its profound examinations of the true nature of love and relationships in our modern age. Theodore might have ended his relationship with Samantha tragically, but that failure presents a harsh reality that many people need to accept—love is not always eternal because change is constant.
But Her is much more than a love story. It is an exploration of how technology impacts the modern world, how we interact with technology, and the role it plays in our actual relationships with other people. It is a cautionary tale to be wary of our love and reliance on technology, and it questions whether our relationship with technology is creating a situation where our humanity is devolving while technology is continually evolving.
People change, society shifts, and not all love stories end happily. Spike Jonze adds a deeper layer to the typical Hollywood love story by prompting audiences to question their relationships with not just other people, but the actual methods that they employ in order to make such connections in the first place.
Previously Published on Mindfray