Wednesday, January 15, 2014

A Movie Review of "Her:" A Modern Retelling of the Pygmalion Myth


"HER" showcases the acting skills of Joaquin Phoenix and his romantic relationship with his computer operating system (OS) or Samantha (Scarlet Johansson). "HER" permits Phoenix to give one of the best performance of his career. His ability to act with merely a voice is beyond commendable. As for the writing, Spike Jonze's script recounts the life of Theodore Twombly (Phoenix) who lives a mundane existing writing love letters for other people while he is going through a divorce. Jonze's narrative reveals the new (trending) mentality (or the preference) of socializing with people versus artificial intelligence; while simultaneously reminding the modern movie-goer of our social trends. Our social trends of computers, Facbook, Twitter, Tumblr, Vlogging, Blogging, smart phones, and our unconscious ability to distant ourselves from human interactions. Furthermore, the story taps into the raw energy of the most basic human condition: the need to be loved and be in love. Jonez's ability to tackle human emotions and the evolution of the OS in human society is a new genre untouched in cinema. Fun Fact: Samantha was modeled after Siri; see what Siri had to say of Johanssen's performance:

[Pygmalion by Jean-Baptiste Regnault, 1786, Musée National du Château et des Trianons]
The film depicts a retelling of the myth of Pygmalion. Pygmalion, recounted in Ovid's "Metamorphoses,"  hopelessly falls in love with his creation, Galatea, which is an ivory statue. As in "HER," Phoneix and other characters make bonds of friendship and love with their personal OS which essentially are ivory statues (minus the corporal form).  A quote from the film:
"Falling in love is a crazy thing to do, it’s like a socially acceptable form of insanity."

Is it Insanity? Loving Statues? Loving an OS? Loving Narcissus? Loving "people" or "things" tends to bring out the crazy rawness of the human spirit. Desire. Obsession. Love. Eros. Friendly Love. Jealous. Competitiveness. Sexual Desire. Et Cetera. "HER" shows the evolution of "Love" through a futuristic approach; while at the same time it reveals how the trend of loving "things" outside of humanity is truly archaic. It broaches the subject of human inadequacy for certain people. Furthermore, it demonstrates the lengths of human transgressions within the bounds of "love." Our ability to love beyond the flesh reveals our emotional and mental need for an "connection."


The similarity between the Pygmalion and Twombly is their "falling in love" with their creations is obvious; although, Twombly falls for a creation within his society. Perhaps it is the idea that these beings (Samantha and Galatea) are created in the eye of their master and therefore are the perfect form and ideal partner. It could then even be taken a step further and argued that as the creators of the OS or statues that our love for our creations reflects our love and desire for ourselves. This would even relate to our own narcissistic tendencies and  this narcissistic love only results in alienation and loneliness, as it did with Narcissus.
I wonder, What do you see in the picture above featuring Theodore Twombly at the beach? Is he happy? Lonely? Social? A product of his time?

I would rate the film at a 8.5/9 out of 10 or 4 1/2 stars! The film has already been nominated for several awards for its script and actors. Furthermore, Phoenix's absence from Hollywood did make my heart grow fonder...well, at least mine. I would bet money on the film receiving an Oscar nomination. I would recommend adults or young adults to see the film and discuss the philosophy of the script the dilemmas of the future yet to come.   If people are still interested in Jonze's ability to weave such an influential narrative, please consult his blog on his inspirations for the film "HER:"
- Classical Studies & Ancient History

1 comment:

  1. It is the weirdest film imaginable: A romance film with only one partner.