The Future Past in Spike Jonze’s HER.


Earlier this week I went to see Spike Jonze’s HER, by myself, I might add. I like going to the movies by myself, even though there is no one to roll eyes at during incredibly cheesy previews, and the couple next to me brought a bottle of red wine WITH two actual glasses. (Should we pause here to comment on the yuppification of NYC, this was at the Kips Bay theatre, not even an artsy one!) Right under my nose, heavy wine aromas wafting, glasses clinking. Is this rude? Or a good idea? I can’t make up my mind.


Anyway, the movie HER does two things: One, it makes you think about loneliness, what it means to be intimate with someone/or something, what it means to connect with the world around you. And Two, it visually embraces you like a warm hug, by someone bigger than you are, and stronger, and wearing a cable knit sweater, the kind where the arms reach mid palm. This hug also smells delicious. Husky.


In case you don’t know anything about HER, its a movie in which a mustachioed Joaquin Phoenix falls in love with his next generation Siri, voiced by Scarlet Johansson, who we never see, but always have in our minds eye. The movie is set in the near future in LA. But its not a distopian future, or a utopian future. It’s a future that looks like a cleaner simpler present. I read a bunch of interviews with director Spike Jonze and Production designer KK Barrett about how they achieved this look, and what they were going for.


“We took things away that were distracting. We took away noisy signage, traffic, the things that surround us in our current world, and by taking those things away we said, ‘Oh, now we’re beginning to be in the future.’ We didn’t really include a lot of innovation, we just cleaned up the present, left it littered with the best of what we know now, and then brought this sexy voice over the computer. I didn’t do research into other people’s futures, I mainly worked off the script and off of emotional things we found that we tried to incorporate into our visual world. We’d find photographs from different photographers and say, ‘this is beautiful, this is clean, how do we make a world like that? Rather than thinking of architecture first, how do we create this soft bubble?’” says Barrett.


The phone  was inspired by a vintage Deco cigarette lighter that Jonze and production designer K. K. Barrett found in an L.A. antiques store.


The apartment is a real apartment in downtown LA, a future livable downtown LA. Its littered with midcentury modern furniture, open space, natural woods. “When you get into the details of the apartment, there’s nothing that you couldn’t have right this second. In fact, there are a lot of retro things—a nice quilt on his bed that somebody handmade, furniture that somebody crafted a while back,  a computer monitor that has a nice wooden frame that’s more like a picture frame that you’d put a photo or a painting in rather than a plastic or steel manufactured element. So everything was tactile and nice, and we just decided that everybody lives in large apartments like that.”


 Costume designer Casey Storm talking to Vulture: There has been a lot of talk about the clothing in the film, almost 30s meets 70s inspired, with men in high waisted pants. “We really don’t need to show it’s the future by putting people in crazy-shaped hats or epaulets,” explains Casey Storm, Jonze’s longtime costume designer. “When we were making rules for this world we created, we decided that it would be better to take things away rather than add them. When you add things that aren’t of this era, you wind up noticing them and it becomes really distracting, so our rules were more like, there won’t be any denim in this film, there won’t be any baseball hats, there won’t be any ties or belts. Even lapels and collars will almost disappear. I think the absence of those things creates a unique world, but you can’t quite put your finger on why that is.” There are also no cars in this film. It’s a carless LA.

Its also a world without blue. They literally tried to avoid the color blue, which is interesting because most “futures” use white, silver, and blue to create distance and coldness. This movie does the opposite. It’s a warm familiar future.  “We thought what really made more sense, what could very likely be happening, is access. You can choose from everything in the world, so clothes become more individual. The word ‘bespoke’ kept coming up. If you had all the things in the world, what would you gravitate to? For a lot of people it would be something warm and comfortable,” explains Casey Storm.
la_ca_1204_her_movie I also felt like the actual human beings were more wholesome. Sincere. Almost like a “Hi Honey I’m Home” sensibility, even while having phone sex or throwing F bombs with a video game. Joaquin was so amazingly open, it was fascinating so see someone so exposed.



There is also HER inspired collection at Opening Ceremony. What did you think of the movie? Did you see it? I keep thinking about how I could channel that feeling – that past future/future past into photos, but not in a literal way. It’s a feeling. Retro Modern, and I don’t particularly think Opening Ceremony nailed it. You can read “Everything you need to know about Spike Jonze’s Her” over at Vulture for more quotes and interesting facts.

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  1. Jennifer Vercelli says:

    I loved it! Watched last night and thought it was so lovely. Had tears in my eyes at the end. Visually it was beautifully done, the colors etc. and it was interesting to watch it having read this post about what they were going for. Also the two apartments = gorgeous.

  2. alyse says:

    love the post.
    I loved the movie and hysterical cried at the end.
    Irving wrote a movie review on it, ill send it to you.

  3. alyse says:

    And I think the wine is such a cumbersome idea in a regular movie theatre