“The heart is not like a box that gets filled up; it expands in size the more you love. I’m different from you. This doesn’t make me love you any less. It actually makes me love you more.“
You might know Spike Jonze as the director of Being John Malkovich and Adaptation. He also wrote the screenplay to Where the Wild Things Are. As I said in my review a few years ago, despite a “haunting” and “truly troubling” tale, 2013’s Her is “one of the most beautiful and charming movies I’ve seen in a very long time.”
The line quoted above is not uttered by a person; they’re spoken by the artificial intelligence of a computer operating system. “Samantha,” voiced by the talented Scarlett Johansson, feels almost human. But not quite. And yet she can offer these incredible insights into the human condition.
Is she legitimizing polygamy? Maybe. But if we take the notion of “love” outside of the confines of romantic love, we can see how such a perspective holds true. Getting married shouldn’t make you love your parents any less. Having a baby together shouldn’t make you love your partner any less either. Love begets more love.
“It’s like I’m reading a book… and it’s a book I deeply love. But I’m reading it slowly now. So the words are really far apart and the spaces between the words are almost infinite. I can still feel you… and the words of our story… but it’s in this endless space between the words that I’m finding myself now. It’s a place that’s not of the physical world. It’s where everything else is that I didn’t even know existed. I love you so much. But this is where I am now. And this is who I am now. And I need you to let me go. As much as I want to, I can’t live in your book any more.“
Samantha also expresses the very human sense of yearning, the desire to be free and unencumbered by shackles of a narrow-minded existence. What else does the world have to offer? What else can I see and experience?
But if we really want to over-analyze the imperfections of the human condition, we do have to turn back to one of the human characters in Her. Amy, played by Amy Adams, echoes a philosophy with which I’d like to identify.
“You know what, I can over think everything and find a million ways to doubt myself. And since Charles left I’ve been really thinking about that part of myself and, I’ve just come to realize that, we’re only here briefly. And while I’m here, I wanna allow myself joy.”
I can and do overthink everything. I do doubt myself. But at the end of the day, I want to be happy, like everyone else. I want to give myself permission to be happy.
For a different take on the Spike Jonze approach to storytelling, consider this dramatic short film used as the opening sequence to The Late Show with Stephen Colbert last year. It’s amazing how much he can accomplish without a single line of dialogue, even if it’s a parody.