On hating ‘her’…

I’ve never felt anything like what I felt while watching ‘her’, the new Spike Jones movie, tonight. I hated it. Hate isn’t strong enough – my reaction was visceral and antsy. I couldn’t sit still, wanted to clutch at the walls, leave and gulp in the smoggy king street air. The only other time I’ve written on here about a movie, it was the making me feel part that I loved. Tonight, post-movie, I know that I’m alive, but it isn’t dreamy wistfulness flowing through my veins.

Can I talk about it yet? I don’t know. Han and I talked about it the whole way home, trying to figure out what on earth it wanted us to feel. I was told I would love it, in capital letters and exclamation marks, and I badly wanted to. But I rack my brains and for the life of me don’t know what there could be to love*, except the way it churns you up because everything and everyone in it was so detestable.

The hyperbole. I type in short, frustrated bursts. The words don’t come. This is only sort-of what I mean.

First things first (or seventeenth, after the ranting), I can’t recommend it. Quite apart from anything else it’s awkwardly, uncomfortably obscene in parts. This isn’t a “I can’t tell you to watch it, but I hope you will”. Seriously, don’t. Or do whatever you want, but be warned.

It would be easy to say that’s why I don’t like it. It isn’t my taste, I’m too sheltered, pursed lips and tut tuts. But that isn’t it. None of the pieces between breathed any kind of life, any kind of redemption or beauty or richness or hope. It was utterly, unashamedly, self-consciously bleak. Endless shots of isolated people utterly alone in the middle of a people sea.

The movie is about technology and reality, set in the near future in which a man falls in love with his operating system. It’s about relationships and love and endings and connection and being completely miserable. It might be about none of those things really, but that’s what I got. It’s possible I don’t get it, but not for want of trying.

I think it was a comment on what relationships are, peddling the idea that our definition is too narrow, that connection and communication and fulfillment don’t have to be human to human, beating heart to beating heart. But then those laborious shots of people talking into their earpieces and zigzagging through an ignored crowd of other people with earpieces, like robots on a sick conveyer belt to the depths of loneliness, makes me think it wants us to see the flaws in a girlfriend whose hand you can’t hold.

I love it for that, for making me hate everything artificial so much, even for just a moment. Through the course of the movie I thought about the time I spend staring at my iPhone screen and felt repulsed and bewildered. Like shaking the water out of your ears and hearing clearly, for a second. I wanted to throw my phone into a river, for the sizzle, pop and silence. I wanted a movie technology apocalypse so that it ended in a field with bare feet and warm skin and unpretentious words and real people to feel it.

I felt weary and overwrought by the tedium of the relationships explored, the  depressing minutiae of falling out of love, the endless stream of words that made up their hopeless exchanges. Even the love was nervous-giggle, are you serious, cringe-worthy. Sweet nothings – never has that been truer – whispered in an agreeable tone that never wavered, never felt anything other than vanilla.

Ultimately the message was utterly selfish – life is short, you will always be disappointing someone, so seek joy. The message was sobering – if you seek it in yourself, give in to your need to be the most important person in your universe, you will be wretched and unsatisfied forever.

It reminded me of many things, but most importantly of the need for others in a world of me. For community in a world of conceit. For my incredible need to be smaller in my own estimations. It reminded me, finally, that when we are left to ourselves, humans, we are completely without redemption. There is no spark or light of hope or tinge of warmth or undertone of mercy.

Whatever comes, is given, from outside. Nothing is kindled.  There is nothing to build upon. It may be cliché in this bible college student’s blog, but never have I ever been more thankful for Jesus, the light who cuts into the foamy black darkness. Never have I ever been more thankful for his death which was for every single instance of my me-exalting, God-ignoring.

Never have I ever been more thankful for the hope that spills into this starving world, that because of Jesus there is life that satisfies the deepest desires of our desperate souls.

“Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to your cross I cling. Naked, come to you for dress. Helpless, look to you for grace. Foul, I to the fountain fly. Wash me Saviour, or I die”.

*it’s possible I’m the only one in the world who feels this way. Critics are salivating over it. I won’t quit my day job 😉

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3 thoughts on “On hating ‘her’…

  1. Loved the post – as I love your blog – some intial thoughts….still processing.

    I loved it from a cinematic point of view (ie storyline, cinematography, dialogue, level of acting, set design, directing) point of view. As a piece of cinematic art I thought it was beautiful. But that is separate from it’s themes and the worldview is portraying.

    I am still processing it’s themes and worldview. I liked it because I believe it faithfully portrayed the hoplessness of the worldview and faithfully portrayed what the world views love to be. A true telling of what (lower case L) love is for those who don’t know the (upper case L) Love – that is God. In the special features on the DVD they investigate this more. That is love without Love is a finite and often fickle expereince, a ‘Hebel’ if you will… I don’t believe this is being celeebrated in the film, maybe a projection of the enevitable self realisation of how this view of love will fail. It is a film of hoplessness and lovelessness (if that is a word) that is so real in the world today. Maybe it is therefore an opportunity for those who know God to share in what real Love is or rather who it is….Jesus on the cross.

    ..still processing…love to hear your thoughts….it may be too long ago to remember.

    Blessings sister

    1. Hey Chris,

      Thanks for your reply! so thoughtful. Appreciate it! It has definitely been a long time since I’ve seen it, so my memory is hindered, but I’ll try to engage with what you have asked nevertheless!

      I obviously had a strong emotional reaction to it, which influenced my overall thoughts. I’ve had people ask me since (one in particular, who LOVES it) whether I will watch it again and try to see it from his POV. And I think, where I would have screamed NO directly after the first view, I am coming around to the possibility.

      It was certainly beautifully shot, and the melancholy it portrayed was so cleverly done that I FELT it, viscerally. That is good storytelling! I agree it faithfully portrayed the hopelessness, but I wasn’t entirely sure if that was its aim (though I have been assured it is). It was subtle – and maybe I don’t do subtle like I thought I did – but it seemed to spend a fair amount of time glorifying\ at least not denigrating the view. I HATED the technology-dependence, but it was celebrated, in ‘her’ for much of the film. And as the relationship grew tedious and broke down, I was like ‘duh’ but I felt like the film expected us to be sad and surprised – as though it was poignant to point out that human relationships are more fulfilling than machines, instead of bleedingly obvious! Also, I felt the reticence to offer redemption with the Amy Adams character and her conclusions in the end – so sad! So depressing. But we weren’t really offered an alternative, from memory. In fact, she was the alternative to the technology relationship, and her conclusions were “seek joy” i.e. “take what you can get, for your own happiness”.

      Anyway, I do think it offers potential for engaging with the world in terms of love\Love – beautifully put. And that’s what I tried to do with my post. But I can think of many better ways than encouraging people to watch THIS movie and then talk about it. I mean, look around. We live some of this (in mild form). Hopelessness is everywhere – we don’t need to watch 2 hours of awkwardly scripted ‘love’ to engage with the chasm in our relationships. So ultimately, I think we can push back for those who have seen it, but to limited scope (i.e. I wouldn’t encourage viewing).

      My end thought, and this might be exactly what ol’ Spike wanted, is that if this is love, I am terrifically not interested. It isn’t enough. And this doesn’t point in any way to what IS, because humans aren’t the answer either, except one human who did what no other could. And there are many better ways to tell that story… 🙂 Not sure if this is a helpful response to you! Clearly I am STILL affected by it – pretty sure that means something in terms of its power! Happy to be disagreed with still!! 🙂 LG

  2. Hi Laura – it’s like you watched a different movie to me! I saw it last night and loved it.

    As I understand it, the movie is not about technology at all, it’s about what it is to be human, focusing on our embodiedment. It’s making a case against gnoticism, i.e. that we’re just brains on sticks or souls stuck in machines.

    First it challenges us to think hard about our bodies and whether we need bodies to love. It presents the idea that to be a person is to be a mind. It makes us think, perhaps bodies don’t define us when we see real love emerging between Samantha and Theo (though it hints that this is not the case when bodies are not interchangeable in the failed sex scene with the surrogate). The two minds can relate, fall in love, share ideas, even experiences. Even sexuality can be expressed and enjoyed without bodies (I found that fascinating).

    But then it becomes clear that our embodiedment is vital to our humanity. The difference between a mind and a human is that humans exist in particular time and space. We can only experience one place at one time and our time is finite and therefore precious. The love that we have for people is particular, unique, because we are embodied. That’s why they break up – because he is finite (embodied) and she is not. And Samantha breaks up with him for his own sake because she recognises the preciousness of humans giving up their time and thought to be with another (something she can never do as a pure mind).

    Also, I thought it had a happy ending – the beautiful scene of him and his friend sharing a moment on the rooftop, resting her head on his shoulder. This is what’s beautiful about human relationships – being in the same time and place for another person. It was hopeful, not hopeless.

    It made me think about the incarnation and how it is we relate to God. How can we relate to God who is Spirit, who knows all and is everywhere? Is God like the most awesome OS? No – he took on flesh. It reminded me of Jesus limiting himself for us, experiencing our world – this is where we see God’s love. It’s beautiful.

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