HER - A film that captures love's mysteries, seen and unseen

The meeting between lover and beloved is heart to heart, like that between sculptor and model, between hand and stone. When we fall in love we begin to imagine romantically, fiercely, wildly, madly, jealously, with possessive, paranoid intensity. And when we imagine strongly, we begin to fall in love with the images conjured before the heart's eye — as when starting a project, preparing a vacation trip, planning a new house in a different city, swelling with pregnancy. . . . Our imaginations draw us ever more fully into the venture. You can't leave the lab, can't stop buying equipment, reading brochures, imagining names. You are in love because of imagination."
 JAMES HILLMAN The Soul's Code

It’s been a week since I’ve seen the film Her. I don’t feel remotely capable of discussing it, of writing about it, or, dialoguing about it let alone putting fingers to computer keyboard. Yet, it’s captured me. Captured? That is the term isn’t it?

Uh oh! What just happened to my hands and fingers as I write this? It seems they’ve begun to play my computer keys as if they are keys on a piano.  Perhaps it is the song, a romantic Bossa Nova, playing in the background? This favorite version is quite Brazilian and beautifully executed with slowed way down jazz harmonica and band swaying together in an erotic, romantic Bossa Nova. Sorry, but I digress. 

Or, maybe, it isn’t a digression at all, merely a remembering. The song, referring to the romantic warmth of summer, refers me again to Her.  Like the film, it evokes within me, many imagined, seasonal permutations, as it seems to metaphorically embrace the tone, and atmosphere of all four seasons at once.   

 So what about Her? Just who, is she? Must one be conversant with the Jungian vocabulary in order to understand exactly what is meant by the use of the term Anima?  The writer of the script may not have intended Her storyline to have been patterned upon Jung’s notion of an inner and/or contrasexual partner so often referred to in the Jungian world, when speaking of the mysterious process of navigating the worlds of inter and intrapersonal relationship.  It was my understanding, and certainly my experience, after seeing this film, that the storyline in Her demonstrates what might occur, if Jung’s notion of an inner, contrasexual, female, partner, known as Anima were to take up imaginary space and residence on the big screen.

The theme of an imaginary lover, or inner lover, as soul figure, is not new, either in literature, film or Jungian typology. But the extent to which it has been worked through and worked over in this film which stars Joaquin Phoenix, Scarlett Johansen as the voice of the invisible lover, and Amy Adams, as the real-live girl friend, takes the idea of a fantasy or inner lover to new depths.  You’ll notice I did not say to new heights! This film is not about soaring or getting above it all. I don’t want to give too much away, only to say (and this may already be too much) that when Joaquin Phoenix discovers the female voice of the operating system in his computer, a life-altering relationship between them ensues. 

From there I was left with what I can only describe as a profound sense of necessity related to how our images and our imagination act to color and to bridge the psychological aspects of falling in love.  In my view the necessity of everything noted by Hillman, related to the finding, experiencing and living out of love, with and within all the vicissitudes of imagination, were exquisitely captured in this film.

I feel a need and obligation at this point to intervene and say that while this film has an inner figure of the opposite sex in a starring role, one need not have an inner dialogue only, with a contrasexual partner for the experience to be just as relevant.  Same sex love works just fine!

Hillman  speaks of the act of imagining, falling and being in love as a function of  imagination.  In this film, Hillman’s thesis was very clearly articulated.  When one is in imagination, one is moved toward, and more desirous of, love.  And conversely, as this story progresses, His and Her worlds of love and imagination truly become mutually reinforcing systems, that functions ultimately to aid in clearing  a psychological and literal path to the real thing. 

Jung’s magnificent life’s-work made even more sense to me after seeing this powerful film. The process of analysis became that much more relevant and clear. I felt a sense of extreme gratitude to Jung, for my own in-depth ability to access a deeper process of inner dialogue, after only a few hours spent with Her.  With greater clarification I experienced the ways in which relationship to and with figures encountered in the experience of inner dialogue have acted to clarify and illuminate, in depth, my own life and world.  

  Seeing Her, has deepened and clarified my work with images  as clinician and archetypal astrologer in new ways. I‘ve found easier access, and felt experience to that intermediate zone and place where couples so often struggle in their need to achieve greater intimacy.

Conversely, I was also better able to envision and experience that unimaginative, barren, territory that exists when a couple’s time together has run its course.

I’m comforted, when visiting that mysterious, invisible, land of images, to know of the psychological transformation, that transpires, when one imagines, encounters, engages with, and is illuminated by, an exchange with such a captivating soul-figure, as was portrayed simply via dialogue in this curiously interesting film.  

 And, if I haven’t convinced you about the intriguing real life value of such an encounter, then just ask Her!

Judith Harte

January 3, 2014


 Hillman, James.  The Soul’s Code:

In Search of Character and Calling

(New York: Random House,147) 1996


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