In our contemporary world where real and virtual lives are inextricably intertwined, the whole conceptualisation of selfhood and relationships has undergone an incredible metamorphosis! Is cyber revolution fostering narcissism? is voyeurism the new escapism from the self-induced Existential crisis? After having miserably failed to master emotions in actuality, have we deluded ourselves into attaining vicarious self-fulfilment in the virtual world? But situations can only be so distinctly polarised into black and white at the risk of oversimplification. So it is only fair to probe deeply the many shades of grey that occupy the wide black and white spectrum. To investigate further the complexities of inter-mingling of real and virtual lives, Spike Jonze’s recently released movie in India-Her is an impeccable specimen for analysis. Set in a technologically perfect, futuristic Los Angeles backdrop, the movie explores with sensuous intimacy the delicately juxtaposed real and virtual lives of characters with special focus on Theodore Twombly’s ( Played by Joaquin Phoenix) lonely existence. There is this quirky character portrayal of Theodore whose semi-melancholic existence consists of an ongoing divorce from his wife and a job in a company called BeautifulHandWrittenletters.com which requires him to churn out heart-touching letters on behalf of those who are unable to pen down their emotions. Theodore’s life undergoes an Edenic topsy turvydom when his computer gets an entirely new operating system, linked to a smartphone handset with earpiece. It is a hyper-advanced artificial intelligence with a female voice called Samantha, played by Scarlett Johansson. Samantha is programmed to transmute his fragmented existence into a cohesive structured whole by giving him highly personalised advices in matters ranging from absolutely mundane to earth shattering serious. Endearingly witty Samantha seems just as real to Theodore as anyone else in his technologically empowered digital world and their love story ensues. Their romance would have been a typical love affair if Samantha had been a real person endowed with a tangible physical existence and not limited to just a compellingly seductive voice.
The world we inhabit is engrossed in desperate attempts to examine whether relationships can be sustained through compensating physical comfort with virtual proximity. Spike Jonze’s movie takes the issue of substituting physical immediacy with virtual closeness to an altogether different level by making Theodore fall in love with his operating system and then subjecting to a nuanced assessment this passionate desire which is simultaneously worthy of elevation and ridiculous for its absurdity. The sustained vulnerability of Theodore’s relationship with Samantha i.e. the operating system, is premised on these contrary impulses that drive their bond forward and put other relationships in the movie like Theodore’s failed marriage into a fresh perspective. Is not it absolutely human to fall in love with the projection of one’s own expectations? is that love less ‘real’ because it is virtual? There is no absolute right or wrong. Her is admirable for foregrounding with remarkable virtuosity and multi-dimensionality, the building up towards an orgasmic bliss for Theodore and Samantha, even if the climactic moment gets thwarted in struggling between the real and the virtual. Despite the poetic closure the movie oozes relevance for our increasingly solipsistic world which is heading towards a technologically evolutionary paradigm shift .
Aneesha Puri is pursuing her Masters in English Literature from Miranda House. A self-confessed book- ravisher , keen surveyor of society and its ideological politics, loves deconstructing and decoding anything and everything that even remotely concerns people, ranging from celebrated, canonical literary texts to popular cinema and advertisements. Her idea of utopia is a truly emancipated world which allows everyone, unfettered freedom to foster his/ her potential to the maximum.
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