What I am here to talk about is the connection between the film's main character, Theodore Twombly, and his namesake, an artist named Cy Twombly. For one thing, the film's color scheme often seems lifted directly off of Cy's canvas:
Left: Cy Twombly, Ferragosto I, 1961
Right: Spike Jonze, Her, 2013
Left: Spike Jonze, Her, 2013
Right: Cy Twombly, School of Athens, 1964
Many critics have already drawn comparisons between the two Twomblys, mainly because Theodore is a writer and Cy's work often centers around writing, but I wanted to see if the similarities ran deeper than that. I did some research and found several parallels, not necessarily to Theodore, but to the film's overall concept.
First of all, Cy's paintings are not simply about writing. John Berger wrote that Twombly "visualizes with living colors the silent space that exists between and around words." This phrasing is strangely similar to what Samantha (the operating system that Theodore falls in love with) says when she leaves him. "It's like I'm reading a book," she says, "and it's a book I deeply love. But I'm reading it slowly now. So the words are really far apart and the spaces between the words are almost infinite. I can still feel you, and the words of our story, but it's in this endless space between the words that I'm finding myself now."
|Cy Twombly, Untitled, 1971|
Finally, Cy's approach to art is not to choose a subject to portray, but rather to create something that becomes its own unique subject. "Each line is now the actual experience with its own innate history," Cy says of his work. "It does not illustrate – it is the sensation of its own realisation [sic]." This reminds me distinctly of Samantha's journey through the film, beginning as a programmed system and eventually becoming an unfathomably advanced consciousness. She changes and grows as she learns about who she is and about the world around her – she is never anything other than what she realizes about herself.
Left: Cy Twombly, Sunset, 1957
Right: Cy Twombly, Untitled, 1968
In 1979, Roland Barthes wrote the following about Cy Twombly's work: "It is in a smear that we find the truth of redness; it is in a wobbly line that we find the truth of a pencil." I would add the assertion of the movie Her: it is in a shaken breath that we find the truth of humanity.
All Cy Twombly paintings and related quotes via www.cytwombly.info