Her is a very powerful movie. Loneliness bleeds off the screen, splashes onto your skin, and reminds you that the same blood runs through your veins. When you leave the theater, you can’t help but recognize the same splatter patterns on everyone you see. Her made me want to kiss every person I saw as I walked out of the mall where I saw the movie. I wanted them to know that I know what it’s like to be alone, that they are worthy of love and loved, that however we differ, we’re not that different in the end.
Her‘s affect is a welcome one. It encourages us to love the people around us more. It reveals how loneliness is omnipresent and how it is present in greater intensity wherever there are more people, as in our urban spaces. We might naturally depict loneliness as a person walking through a desert alone, but it might be better pictured by showing a crowded city street. Nothing makes you feel more lonely than being surrounded by people you don’t know.
Her‘s gimmick – a man, Theodore, falls in love with his operating system, Samantha – is interesting too, but the movie really seems more concerned with the human element of the story than it is with its undergirding techno-philosophy. Ultimately, it’s a simple, moving story about loneliness and love with a catchy premise, and I applaud it for that. It’s more heart than head. Still, given the intimate relationships we share with our screens these days, the technological and philosophical questions deserve a mention.
Can someone fall in love with a voice? Essentially, that’s what Samantha is – an intelligent voice whose intelligence and existence eventually transcends Theodore’s. The only things that separate Theodore and Samantha are physicality and mortality.
My thoughts: My relationship with my wife began at a distance. We met in person, but much of our initial courtship was via letters and telephone calls. Largely, we were voices to each other. We began falling in love in a disembodied way. So, I can see how a relationship with a disembodied voice might work for a while.
However, the love we shared demanded physical presence. Call it biology or call it amour, we had to be with each other physically, be it holding hands as we walked through a park or making out in the back seat of a parked car. Eventually, we had to get married, because we wanted to cement, publicly and spiritually, our intention to be with one another for the rest of our lives. Physical presence proved necessarily perpetual.
Taking a step further back (but not too much further back), Theodore’s relationship with Samantha is very much like Adam’s relationship with God prior to Eve’s creation. God and Adam were together in the Garden, but it wasn’t enough. God wasn’t present physically, and so Adam was alone. God recognized that this wasn’t good, so God made Eve, a physical being to be with Adam. As Samantha’s intelligence and existence expands beyond Theodore’s, Theodore’s loneliness, which had been tempered by Samantha, reignites with a fury. Both of them need the kind of presence they can only get with others like them. It’s not good for Theodore to be alone.
Fast-forwarding through human history a few thousand years, we see Christ, God incarnate, come to be with humanity. There are lots of reasons for the Incarnation, but I suspect one of them was that God wanted to be with the ones God loves. Eventually, Christ is resurrected into a new state of being. He ascends, and he promises that he will return to take us with him into that new state of existence. In the mean time, Christ exhorts us to be with one another, to love each other in the fullness of our physical humanness.
So, my relationship with Christ right now, often looks like Theodore’s relationship with Samantha. We speak via prayer as Theodore and Samantha speak via phone. It’s a healthy relationship, live-changing, actually, but Christ outreaches me, and I need my next door neighbor. I need my friends and family and church body. I need physical human beings to be fulfilled. I eagerly await being reunited with Christ in New Creation when our states of existence are the same, but for now, I need to know I’m not the only one who feels lonely. I need to know I’m worthy of love. I need to know I’m loved. Often, I just need a kiss.