Cinematography: Dismantling Insanity in Her

            In Her, Spike Jonze exploits the sensitivity, love life, and connection Theodore has with Samantha. Undeterred by the absurd notion of falling in love with an operating system, an indication of robust context collides with Theodore and reverses what could be described as self-proclaimed insanity. The complexities between Theodore and his virtual counterpart advocates the need of a clear Hollywood narrative. Jonze uses cinematography and editing to convey why a clear narrative should integrate emotion in Her.

The scene with the holographic screen in Theodore’s apartment is almost reminiscent of the hologram in Star Wars: A New Hope where Princess Leia delivers a message to Obi-Wan Kenobi. Like Princess Leia, Theodore seeks the knowledge and wisdom for his problems—Samantha is his “only hope.”  The touch-screen technology in Her amplifies a take on modern day touch-screen technology today, but takes it a step forward into the future. The scene opens with a full shot of Theodore lounging in a chair playing an interactive video game via the holographic screen. The camera movement combines both a dolly and tracking shot as it moves inward moving left, but centers slightly towards Theodore.  In the next cut, Theodore fiddles his fingers as he maneuvers a video game character on screen, and a shot reverse transitions to a cut with an over the shoulder shot of Theodore and the game character on the hologram.  The game character has its back turned against Theodore—common in a 3rd person video game, but in this case it indicates that Theodore is essentially talking to a wall. Even though he is communicating with Samantha while engaging with the hologram—Samantha is not tangible.

Jonze implements a planimetric view in the following cut with a full shot of Theodore and the game character encountering the “cursing” game character. Again, Theodore initiates character movement on screen by fiddling his fingers, meanwhile the camera moves inward toward the hologram via combination of a dolly and trucking shot. A more obvious shot reverse maneuver is taking place as well as use of the 180-degree rule. The dialog exchange between the cursing game character obviously serves as comic relief, but also differs from the silent playable character prior. Here the cursing game character sort of downplays the technological advances of Samantha—maybe even comparing the limited A.I. of a silly game character to the advanced functionality and A.I. of Samantha. However, is Samantha really that different? In essence she is just a virtual character and no different to the silly cursing game character. They aren’t authentic entities, but rather virtual at their core. The only difference is that Samantha is programmed extremely well and disguised as a down to earth and humble woman. The exchange of “fuck you” between Theodore and cursing game character highlights the overall theme of the movie. This exchange of quick cuts amplifies emptiness and frustration Theodore might really be feeling with Samantha, but ultimately with himself as he overcomes his feelings with his ex-wife.

The video game image in the holographic screen uses planimetric framing and cuts into Theodore’s world highlighting that he isn’t living in reality, but instead a delusion. A cut to a close up and reaction shot shows Theodore’s expression after Samantha asks, “How long before you’re ready to date?” As she persuades him, there is another cut to the blind date on the holographic screen, which makes use of eyeline matching. A couple cuts later, the blind date is displayed overhead on the holographic screen and the cursing game character makes a remark, “Who is that talking?” The camera movement uses the handheld style and shifts down towards the game character overlooked by an over the shoulder shot of Theodore. This shot is not steady which causes a feeling of intensity for the moment. The cursing video game character continues “Is she a girl?” This intensity of movement amplifies the surreal situation Theodore is having with Samantha, who’s only purpose is to assist him and function as a daily organizer for meetings, events, or even in this case—dates.

The underlying theme in Her exploits the insanity of Theodore’s connection with Samantha, but Jonze explores Theodore’s interludes—discovering feelings of desperation, yet therapeutic transition as Theodore comes to terms with his recent divorce. Jonze illustrates a clear narrative with the ridiculousness that a human with sensitivity and complex emotions has fallen for an operating system. Theodore’s emotional complexities with Samantha are highlighted with strategic use of cinematography and concentrated use of continuity editing throughout Her.

 

 

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