Monday, January 13, 2014
Thematic Wanderings: Musings About Her(2013)..
[Warning: Potential Spoilers for Spike Jonze's Her. Nothing terribly specific, but enough to concern the reveal-averse.]
Two viewings and a weekend later, and I still can't get Her out of my mind. Spike Jonze's singular achievement is the kind of genre-destroying work that moves the soul, and smacks of genius. It's a romantic drama that delivers the emotional nutrition as well as an effective emotional journey. And for a film that is on its face about a man who falls in love with his computer, it is a thing of sheer wonder. And as much as I would love to share a traditional review regarding all the standouts of the film from the performances, to the direction, to the visuals, nothing here can truly approximate how I feel about it, save for exploring the reverberations that are still coming off of me days after experiencing it. The poetics on display throughout grant more purview into the feelings and themes that Jonze seemed primed to provoke us with here, and they are delivered with a sensitivity that is both brutally honest and uplifting.
What stood out for me more the second time around, was how the dots connected regarding the central theme of "letting go is an ultimate expression of love". Every character is bound by some need to hold onto some vague idea of what they perceive themselves (and occasionally others) to be. For Charles(Matt Letscher), it's the vision of an ideal home, for Amy(Amy Adams), it's the image of herself in the eyes of her parents, for Kathryn(Rooney Mara), it is her own self image, and in Theo(Joaquin Phoenix), it's simply his perception of being a husband and a potential father.
Where Samantha(Scarlett Jonansson) comes in is where Jonze's script goes into full tilt brilliance. We both know that her central conflict early on is that of her lack of a corporeal form. This haunts her to the point of making some pretty rash decisions, until she realizes that her presence is capable of things far beyond the confines of a physical body. And since this is no longer an issue, the dilemma of a being's "oneness", and classic concepts of love is called into question. Jonze seems to be questioning the nature of relationships by offering up a character without the social/ philosophical/male-centric concepts of exclusivity. It is in our innate physical limitations that many traditional mores of love and relationships tend to materialize. She is beyond anything that humans can attain by way their respective human shell, and as such represents an almost spiritual counterpoint to the pain that haunts the rest of the central cast.
This culture of exclusivity can almost be seen as the sleep binding so many characters, not to mention theoretically every other human with an OS in the film. Almost like a divine intervention, the OSs seem to come to a realization that humans are fundamentally bound by their corporeal nature - which is to say, humans tend to grasp tightly to memories/guilt in some primal need to propagate that which needs to run course like approaching and passing seasons.
Acceptance of the self. True self acceptance. And of course, true, unflinching acceptance of another is seen by Jonze as something utterly miraculous, and yet incapable of being completely contained. Like a living, breathing organism, love is something that spouts, bulges, questions, rebels. It grants affection, inspiration, perspective, as well as a chance for growth if one allows.
She says, "Thank you for waking me up", when it was more about granting her the ability to find out more about her potential in the world. She is the spirit of love made manifest. Here to visit humankind for a time with a reminder that all of this is momentary, and that we are alive enough to revel in the moment, even if it means opening up and exposing our souls naked to another. Even if it is for a brief time.