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Is Her (2013) a True Story?

October 1, 2020
3 min read

Spike Jonze’s romantic comedy ‘Her,’ puts a modern twist on love. The star of the movie is an AI (Artificial Intelligence) software that is designed to assist the customers. Apart from taking a female name – Samantha – the virtual assistant also has a female voice. Things get complicated when a lonely professional letter writer Theodore falls headlong in love with her. The movie stars Hollywood heavyweights Joaquin Phoenix, Scarlett Johansson, Amy Adams, and Rooney Mara, in pivotal roles. Curious to know whether ‘Her’ is based on a true story? We have got your back!

Is Her Based on a True Story?

No, ‘Her’ is not based on a true story. In a way, though, the movie is a cautionary tale about technology that is exceptionally relevant in the current context of rampant tech development. In actuality, ‘Her’ is a story that was ten years in the making. A flash of inspiration struck Jonze when he interacted with an AI-powered instant messaging (IM) software in the early 2000s. Initially, the software felt exceedingly life-like to Jonze.

On the experience, Jonze said, “For the first 20 seconds, I had a real buzz. Like, whoa, this is trippy. And after 20 seconds it quickly fell apart and you realized how it worked. It was a program. The more people that talked to it, the smarter it got.” In the vein of the IM software, the movie’s AI, Samantha, also evolves and adapts the more she sees, hears, and interacts with her users. Jonze revisited the idea after directing the short film, ‘I’m Here,’ which touches upon the same themes and concepts.

Jonze found another wellspring of inspiration in long-time collaborator Charlie Kaufman’s writing style for ‘Synecdoche, New York’. Kaufman and Jonze had teamed up as writer-director, respectively, for cinematic greats like ‘Being John Malkovich’ and ‘Adaptation.’ While writing, Jonze modeled Kaufman’s approach of pouring everything he thought, felt, and pondered into the script. Jonze’s meditations on the contradictory nature of technology made their way into the script and on the screen. Also not to be discounted as a compelling inspiration for ‘Her’ is, strangely, a photograph.

To be specific, a photo by Todd Hido, artist par excellence. On his affinity for the photograph, Jonze confessed that the photo seems like a memory of a random girl in a beautiful forest. The photograph is stirringly beautiful; its warm shades, subdued milieu, and overall ambiance bear an uncanny resemblance to the futuristic world Jonze creates. Hido’s work of photographic art is also evocative without revealing its subject – similar to how Jonze treats Samantha’s character in ‘Her’. Theodore and the viewer can’t help but project their thoughts, needs, and aspirations onto Samantha. To design the future, Jonze and production designer K.K. Barrett also looked in the past.

The duo wanted to paint a melancholic picture with the set design, so; they made a conscious decision to shun the usual bleak, dystopian cinematic iterations of the future in favor of a more inviting and soulful look. The high-waisted pants and colorful shirts were referenced from the ’20s and ’40s. The wooden furniture sets were drawn from the 50s, 60s, and 80s. Inspired by Japanese photographer Rinko Kawauchi, the color red also became a motif throughout the film. Theodore’s mobile phone was inspired by a vintage cigarette case Jonze and Barrett chanced upon.

Read More: Where Was Her (2013) Filmed?

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