Final Major Project Research – ‘Her’ (2013)

To begin my research I wanted to look at a few films about Artificial Intelligence Relationships.

The first one I watched was ‘Her’ (2013), which is a film featuring Joaquin Phoenix.

Plot: It is a film about a character called Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix), who is slightly introverted and awkward and is in the process of seperation with his former partner. Being an outcast amongst his collegues he lives a seemingly lonely life and we can see this due to the lack of any significant relationships in the film. He discovers an operating system upgrade which allows him to have a virtual assistant with artifical intelligence to help him organise his life. It collects information from his harddrive and continues to evolve and learn, becoming personalised over time. This AI device, who calls herself ‘Samantha’, develops a strong relationship with Theodore who now doesn’t just see her as a device to assist him with tasks, but also filling in the gap in his life as a friend he doesn’t have. This friendship soon starts becoming complicated with Theodore now developing feelings for his AI device and them becoming officially in a romatic and verbally sexual realtionship. Theodore meets his former partner to sign divorce papers who is extremely shocked and distrubed to learn about his relationship with a ‘computer’. Samantha suggests to take their relationship to a physical level and use a surrogate to have sex with Theodore so they can be physically intimate. This backfires as Theodore becomes uncomfortable to the idea and is overwhelmed by the strangeness of it. Eventually we learn that Samantha had been taking part in many other AI relationships, talking to thousands of other people at the same time. This makes Theodore feel betrayed and extremely upset at the idea, eventually ending their relationship.

I think this film was a good one to begin with as it really captured the complications with AI relationships and the way people may find comfort in them. In this case, Theodore was suffering from loneliness due to isolation in his work environment and the lack of a romantic relationship in his life. We see him as quite lonesome, with no signs of any important relationships in his life (apart from his former partner who he is no longer involved with) and we often see him alone. In Samantha he found a friend, a lover and a means to escape from the reality of life. He relied on Samantha throughout the day, as his personal assistant and someone he could turn to whenever he wanted and didn’t turn their back on him. It was the one relationship that he had control over. In many ways it’s quite a sad story about someone who is just seeking companionship and love, and is so desperate for it that to them it doesn’t matter the unconventinoal means they use to get it. Samantha allows him to feel loved, appreciated and important – all things he was missing in his life. Ofcourse we saw many complications with AI in the film such as the judgement Theodore faces about his atypical AI relationship, the lack of a physical element to an AI being as well as the idea that AI is very complicated in it’s technology which means it’s difficult to understand or predict (which is shown where we learn about Samantha’s unfaithfulness).

This has helped me in the progression of my fiction film as it has allowed me to look deeper into the relationship between Freya and her AI. What is the purpose of the AI in her life? Is it making her happy? What complications does it bring into her life? How much control does she have over her AI? I also saw many similarities between the film and the story I want to tell as they are both using AI to deal with the losses in their lives. In Her, Theordore using his AI to deal with his divorce and my film will show AI being used as a way to deal with grief.

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