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Presented as part of the Past Futures film program

Her (2013)

Spike Jonze

As Her slips into an inevitable melancholy, it becomes less about trans-humanity and more about, well, humanity.”

– The Irish Times

Her postulates a world in which romantic love can exist between humans and AI objects.

In Spike Jonze’s futuristic romance, Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix), a lonely and heartbroken writer, becomes captivated with his computer’s new operating system – a uniquely intuitive entity called Samantha (Scarlett Johansson), and a tender relationship develops between them.

Far from being a passive and compliant computer, Samantha is a seemingly organic and loving creature that gives Theodore the connection he is so deeply searching for. She also has no physical form, just a disembodied voice. Rather than examine the science behind how this can be, Jonze’s film instead asks questions about our inclination to fall in love through contactless connection. We can’t help but think of the countless instances of this phenomena happening every day on the internet, where people meet and fall in love with each other’s avatars, not knowing anything of their background or the totality of their lives. Such love is so realistically depicted in Jonze’s masterpiece (for which he also wrote the screenplay) in all its messy, contradictory and painful guises.

Past Futures curatorial notes —
What futures were past filmmakers imagining for our present world? And did those sci fi prophesies come true? All dreamers and designers start from a place of deep imagining.

In Past Futures we look at imagined dystopias and utopias that made their way into the collective conscious – into the design of now – and consider what might be in the making to come.

In our selection of sci fi visionaries, some classic, others populist, and still others perhaps idiosyncratic, we look away from the stuff of shiny space wars, and towards a survey of the social, political, technological, environmental, interpersonal and existential prophesies dreamed onto the cinema screen over the last century. To paraphrase Roger Ebert, these films offer “an arsenal of images for imagining the world.”

What worlds were filmmakers of the past envisioning for today? Which of these past-futures have materialised in shades of our lived realities? What do modern utopias and dystopias look like? Can cinema help us collectively design a world we want to see?

In curating this series my co-curator, Michelle Carey, and I considered the future worlds that filmmakers were envisioning in the past. In our selection you’ll find distinct visions from pasts that vary in length from way back to cinema’s silent beginnings, to just a moment or two ago.

The curated titles awakened a curiosity in us by way of each film’s aesthetic and philosophical design, some quixotic and wildly ambitious, others comparatively domestic while still suggesting a collective turn in consciousness or new ways of seeing and being. Our present is very much felt and reflected in these past futures.

What future visions are we projecting on screen, now?

Ghita Loebenstein
Creative Producer, The Capitol

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Presented by The Capitol as part of Melbourne Design Week 2021, an initiative of the Victorian Government in collaboration with the NGV.





126 minutes




Spike Jonze


Drama, Sci-Fi, Romance




MA 15+



Joaquin Phoenix
Amy Adams
Scarlett Johansson

Producers: Spike Jonze, Vincent Landay, Megan Ellison
Cinematography: Hoyte Van Hoytema
Editing: Jeff Buchanan, Eric Zumbrunnen
Music: Arcade Fire
Art Direction: Austin Gorg
Production Design: K.K. Barrett
Costume Design: Casey Storm