A lonely professional letter writer going through a difficult divorce process, Theodore (Joachim Phoenix) falls in love with “Samantha”, an artificially intelligent Operating System (OS1) voiced by Scarlett Johansson. Written and directed by American screenwriter Spike Jonze [Being John Malkovitch (1999), Where the Wild Things Are (2009)], Her (2013) ponders on the increasing role of computer systems in our daily lives – after all, intelligent personal assistants like Apple’s “Siri” are already available on the market and such systems are in constant development.
If machines and robots have gradually substituted humans for labour intensive and repetitive tasks, can artificially intelligent systems replace genuine human relationships and emotional intelligence?
Set in a sunny, pastel-tinged Los Angeles in the near future, Her is also graced by a magnificent and mainly piano and string-based soundtrack underpinning every aspect of the bittersweet cyber-romance between Theodore and Samantha. The music was scored by Arcade Fire’s William Butler and performed by the band with the assistance of multi-instrumentalist Owen Pallett. “The Moon Song” (heard twice in the film – first as a duet between Theodore and OS1 and as the credits roll) was composed and performed by Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
If the computerised buzz on “Milk & Honey” or the synth-based “Supersymmetry” reflect Her’s ultramodern cityscape and its backdrop of touchscreen devices and interactive video games, many of the piano-driven tracks ooze a contrasting and old world charm – “Song on the Beach” and its variation “Photograph” have lovely echoes of Claude Debussy or Erik Satie’s music.
While writing the score for the film, William Butler was also working simultaneously on Arcade Fire’s new album and two instrumentals from the soundtrack (“Supersymmetry” and “Other Places”) also appear in different versions on Reflektor (2013).
Apart from three versions of “the Moon Song” available as downloads on iTunes, Her’s Oscar nominated and multi-award winning original score has yet to be officially released, although a distinct Arcade Fire record has been hinted at in many recent interviews.