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Review: Does the movie "Her" reveal our obsession with enlightment?

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The movie "Her."

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Our obsession with enlightenment, that Buddhist state of consciousness, is revealed in numerous articles on meditation proliferating in the media.

This is not actually a "spoiler," as much as a hint of what is to come: Samantha, the operating system's name, meets another operating system in cyberspace reprogrammed from the voice of Alan Watts, the counter-culture's guru preaching impermanence. This reviewer first met Watts at the Esalen Institute in California in a first event introduction to sound meditation, where the sounds of voices became meaningless random sounds changing every moment. They nailed his voice and his slow tempo; they did leave out his womanizing and that back story plays into the mind seduction that may or may not materialize. You have to see the movie to find this out.
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Juxtaposing the voice of Alan Watts to scenes of citizens going about their business talking to their operating systems, is excellent irony. It's also a comment on our obsession with our tools and the lives we live in cyberspace: anonymous and empty. So after a sad breakup our male star is matched to an operating system named Samantha, whose only goal is to serve him. And, oh yes, this species of Artificial Intelligence learns. (Don't worry readers, this form of AI is still not perfected in our time . . . yet.)

What happens is what the originators of a similar tool, called Eliza, feared. Eliza, some decades ago, was modeled about a mode of therapy that kept asking questions of the operator. Some folks became so addicted to this cyberspace therapist that Eliza was recalled and put in moth balls. Or so they thought. . . until Samantha, the bodyless, sexy-voiced female lead of the film played by Scarlett Johansson. And indeed, Theodore played by Joaquin Phoenix, does fall in love with his software, lulled by her soothing voice, and so willing to please.

Until she meets Alan Watts, or his wannabe. Then the preaching of the 1960s, the flower children, and their idol, takes hold and impermanence becomes Samantha's mantra. There is even a double date, with Samantha extolling the virtues of being without a body. The anonymity of living in a dystopia hangs like a cloud over the sweeping landscapes of the picture.

The script by Spike Jonze really does deserve an Oscar. Oh wait it did win.

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