Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World
He’s pulled a steamship across Peru; he’s walked from Munich to Paris; he’s eaten a shoe, been shot, and spent time with murderers on death row. But Werner Herzog might have finally met his match: the vast, anarchic realm of the World Wide Web. It’s at once counter-intuitive and entirely appropriate that Herzog tackle this subject with a documentary. While resolutely a “pre-internet” filmmaker – who likes to do real things about real people in real places, with nary a mobile phone in sight – he is surprisingly popular on the Web. Ever since Grizzly Man had him define the universe as a place of “chaos, hostility, and murder”, there’s been a meme-like appeal in his inimitable Bavarian accent and relentlessly pessimistic world view.
Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World takes an episodic approach to looking at a few of the most important sides of the internet, a technological innovation whose omnipresence has made its content practically infinite. He charts its initial idea from a laboratory in California, to its applications in scientific innovation and futurology, by way of cyberbullying, addiction, and cultural proliferation. Leading industry figures such as Elon Musk and Sebastian Thrun are interviewed, along with those who accomplished work in the beginning, such as Ted Nelson and Bob Kahn, and a whole host of other users and victims.
As always with his documentary work, Herzog takes an obvious prominence. He doesn’t appear in front of the camera, but when he describes a corridor as “repulsive” at the beginning, there’s no doubt that he’s on mischievous form. The film is frequently very funny in its wry observations and its unconventional introductions of various characters, who demonstrate that social skills aren’t improved much by sitting in front of a computer. Though Herzog reveals the serious side of this, too. The focus isn’t the internet, but how it affects people, how it has led to an over-reliance on technology, and a desensitization to the empathy that comes with face-to-face interaction.
There’s nothing radically new or informative about this documentary – it mostly confirms, or adds to, existing knowledge and prejudices. But its topics are approached with an open mind, and its presenter adds a whole new dimension of delightful unpredictability.
Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World is released nationwide on 28th October 2016.
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