Her Movie Analysis

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‘Her’ (2013) explores the relationship between Theodore Twombly, a lonely, recently divorced young man and a sentient artificial intelligence named Samantha. Set in the near future when the rapid developments of AI have reached a point where computer systems can mimic a human consciousness, with all its unique quirks and flaws, to an indistinguishable degree from that of a human. Spike Jonze communicates a relationship to the audience that begins as friendly but quickly becomes romantic, a relationship that feels deceivingly real albeit for a crucial flaw. Jonze expresses this relationship in a way that suggests it was doomed from the start, bound to fail as it doesn’t contain the person-to-person interaction that humans need, and could only ever be a substitute for what a real love could bring. His use of film style serves to accentuate the statement that a relationship with an artificial intelligence will only ever be artificial in nature.

Following Theodore’s purchase of the AI, the camera in the scene is focused on his right side, with him and the computer in frame. As he goes through the installation of the software, the camera remains on the right side, but when Samantha “enters” the conversation via her finishing her installation, the camera then switches to Theodore’s left side, breaking the 180-degree rule. This decision is unusual as the 180-degree rule is typically used between two characters having a conversation where the invisible axis is the line between the two characters, but in this scene the other character at the end of the invisible axis wasn’t someone who had a physical body or something for the camera to focus on. In fact, most of the conversation between Theodore and Samantha in this scene happens with the camera focused on only Theodore. Jonze wanted to represent Samantha as close to being human, but not close enough, by incorporating basic cinematic rules in situations where they didn't quite fit, resulting in a feeling that something is off. This further solidified the distinction between a regular human conversation and this ‘fake’ human conversation, existing as a foreshadowing for this 'close but not close enough to be real' love that is to come.

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There’s a scene near the end of the movie where Samantha is talking about her change as an AI and how she’s trying to understand her feelings. Theodore is anxious about what she means, and when she mentions she’s been talking to other AIs, he becomes uneasy. The editing during this scene starts off with medium shots but as the tone of the conversation becomes more tense, it moves in to close-up shots, emphasizing the emotional unrest Theodore feels. The most tense part of the scene is intercut with shots of a boiling kettle, whistling louder and louder. This was a clear example of a sign being used, with the intent to show Thodore’s mental state, with the signifier being the kettle and the signified being the anxiety and doubt slowly escalating within Theodore. It expressed the instability and growing conflict Theodore felt towards the relationship, drawing meaning from the concept of being in love with something that is, itself, uncertain of how to deal with love.

Near the end of the movie, there is a dramatic scene where Samantha stops working, and Theodore panics. The scene begins on a dolly medium shot, smoothly tracking around Theodore, but once Theodore begins to notice something's wrong, the shot becomes closeup, and then the steady camera motion is replaced by erratic movement from a hand-held camera as Theodore is seen running, tripping and falling onto the ground before getting back up, bumping into people as he tries to get home as fast as he can. The camera motion in ‘Her’ is primarily dolly shots, making this scene’s movement contrast even more. Immediately following this, Samantha boots back up and the reveal of the story is given, that she was simultaneously communicating with thousands of other people, even claiming to have fallen in love with hundreds of them. The shot is replaced by a close up of Theodore’s face as he sits on the stairs in disbelief, with shots inserted of people passing by Theodore, hinting that any one of these people he’s seeing could also be in a relationship with Samantha. After Theodore's outburst of anger and disbelief, the camera finally rests on a long take of his face, as he comes to understand what she is saying, ultimately hurt but unable to say anything back. The editing concisely shows the progression of Theodore's emotions during the scene, from panic to disbelief to acceptance as the camera movement changes from erratic to cut-aways to still.

Stepping back, the impossibility of a genuine and fulfilling relationship with a non-human is, in fact, expressed through these scenes as a chronological representation of how the relationship took place. From the first scene where Theodore installed Samantha, showing elements of film style that are usually reserved for 2 people in frame being used on a single person in frame, hinting at the unusual strange nature of a relationship with AI, and foreshadowing the incompatibility of the two later on. The second scene then showcased the tension towards the middle-end of the relationship, the conflict building up as the flaws of this human-robot relationship become evident, evidence that was expressed through intercut shots of a kettle (rising stress and anxiety) and of increasingly closer shots of Theodore (doubt and unsettledness). Lastly, the final scene served as the conclusion of both the story and of Theodore’s relationship, depicting him going through a range of emotions rapidly, partnered by the rapid changes in camera movement, ending on a barely moving frame of Theodore’s face, absent of anger or denial, conveying Theodore’s acceptance of the fact that his relationship with Samantha was like a program written to fail, a journey doomed to end.

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Her Movie Analysis. (2022, December 15). Edubirdie. Retrieved June 22, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/analysis-of-the-movie-her/
“Her Movie Analysis.” Edubirdie, 15 Dec. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/analysis-of-the-movie-her/
Her Movie Analysis. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/analysis-of-the-movie-her/> [Accessed 22 Jun. 2024].
Her Movie Analysis [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Dec 15 [cited 2024 Jun 22]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/analysis-of-the-movie-her/
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