I recently had the opportunity to be able to watch both “Her” by Spike Jonze and a foreign language film by Ritesh Batra called “The Lunchbox”. But while both of these received very highly regarded ratings and reviews (they are 94% and 95% respectively) they brooch the subject of love in the current age with very telling but ultimately very different results.
Starting off with “Her” you get an almost software fantasy of what would happen if you could actually talk to Siri and converse with her. Could you possibly fall in love with her if she had sentience almost? And could you if you wanted be able to actually carry on a friendship with them? Its a question that people have asked for ages in regards to creation of life in the digital world and even more so nowadays with digitalis gripping us by the seat of our pants makes for and quick intellectual conversation starter. Whether it be in regards to transhumanism or even as “Her” brought up the computer singularity when computers transcend matter and humans. Its all very interesting things but in reality the story itself is 1 part realization and 2 parts of willful ignorance and raunchy lazy scriptwriting. Its a good movie no doubt and its rating is half earned in regards to the message that can be picked out. But that is a message entirely different from the message that it is trying to send.
The moment that the movie became very real for me and started to move in interesting ways is when he goes to his soon to be ex-wife and tells her that he is dating his Operating System Samantha. Its a moment of realism versus the fantasy concocted within Theodore’s mind that he is actually in love. Ultimately, this combined with how he realizes Samantha is in love with many other people near the end of the movie, and the way in which he approaches other people, is a satirical way of looking at the seemly subtle Narcissism that has entered his life. Its not that Theodore is a prideful prick who thinks too much of himself or a classic case of the typical narcissist who is so absorbed its obvious. Instead, it works in more subtle ways with his inability to think of women in a proper manner because he wants all the joys of a relationship like sexual pleasure, adoration, and friendship without the sacrifices necessary to actually make that happen. This is hinted at within the movie by how he looks at porn and even before Samantha arrives is calling into sex talk voice over places so he can feel the rush so to speak.
But probably the most telling thing about the movie is its jab at real connections versus connections that are digital and feel real but in reality are only deceiving ourselves. Theodore works at a company where he writes homely handwritten notes, on his computer by the way, for other people. Its probably one of the best examples of a total depravity and relational disconnect that I’ve seen portrayed in a movie in decades. Now while the movie though heads into very steady waters by the middle of the film by the end of the film the message that it tries to say, versus the one gleaned personally, is very much a whole other case. It falls short. It lacks real depth. The script gets lazy.
Well why might you say this? To start the story ends with the OS’s attaining singularity which is largely one of the biggest cop out’s ever I’ve seen in a film that was bristling with a real build up to something really connecting. But in the end you can’t really connect with the end of the film because Samantha doesn’t even exist, really exist and that is the biggest pull of the movie. You are dealing with something that is real versus something that isn’t and that we know really isn’t real. Imagine if the ending of the movie had managed to get Theodore mixed up between two relationships with one being real and one fake and instead of going for the real he went for the fake. Now that would be an interesting premise and great way to poke at our current generation who is quickly becoming more self-absorbed than Justin Beiber.
But instead of this they instead opt of a simple one line to answer all your doubts, “I won’t deny myself joy in the time that I have since its short,” which summed up is I only live for myself and feeling happy as much as possible. And not in the sense of happiness that can pertain to contentedness but being exuberant and feeling very much extremely well so to speak. Its a very unrealized ending in the sense that it tries to put joy on a pedestal when we all know that it isn’t real. And the ramifications of such a statement are even quite immature and narcissistic in nature. So am I allowed any and all possible joy? Is joy allowed to myself even to the danger of others or even at risk of destroying myself and not fully realizing. Drug addicts are constantly enjoying themselves but is it worth it when they are penniless and out on the street. Its a terrible send off indeed to an otherwise great movie that had a lot of promise but ended woefully. And in the eyes of movie-dome if there is one thing that you can’t do with a movie its to end it poorly.
Compare that to the now growing new found love I came across in Ritesh Batra’s indian film “The Lunchbox”. The movie is wrought with wonderful themes of finding meaning in world that is increasingly becoming more urbanized, industrialized, and uses humans like cheap boxes that they might build they’re new tower of Babel upon. In the story it features the idea that what if a “dabbawala” got a delivery wrong one lunch and instead of the “real” handwritten note going to the wife’s husband it went to another man. Its a very fascinating look at the life of a dabbawalas and how they deliver hot and ready lunches within India amidst a storm of people going to and fro. However, more importantly the movie gleans meaning from the simple pleasures in life and even more having honor amongst a man. Its very uncommon nowadays to have men in movies that actually have decency and a concept of having honor or chivalry but this movie puts it fully on display in the older protagonist Saajan. In fact the story is so well told that you probably could make it through the whole movie without knowing the names of either of the main protagonists if not for adds into the story regarding they’re names.
But more importantly the movie tackles our increasingly fast world that is constantly movie forward and yet never looking back at our history. It is constantly living in our here and now and as such it tends to feel removed and without friendship or love. What this movie does is bring history, friendship, and love in a way that isn’t always seen but in subtle ways and in incredibly meaningful ways. Its like the difference between the worlds greatest musical extravaganza that may not puncture the soul of nearly anyone and a lonely simple ballad like Gymnopedie no.3 that can absolutely send you or probably anyone else with a soul to near pieces. One tries to crush you the other cuts deeper than any flesh could be cut.
Its the antithesis to “Her”, real relationships in a modern world that is increasingly becoming more disconnected and cutthroat every day.