500 Days Of Film Reviews Werner Herzog's Documentary Lo And Behold, Reveries Of The Connected World
Exploring the virtual world from its humble beginnings to its outermost reaches, director Werner Herzog's documentary takes us on a journey of digital discovery, revealing how the online world has transformed our lives - for better and for worse.
That our lives have been irrevocably changed following the creation of the internet will come as a shock to no one. Since the first digital message was transmitted from a modest computer lab at UCLA to scientists at Stanford University in 1969, the world has witnessed a phenomenal digital revolution.
In lesser hands, Lo And Behold's subject matter could have felt tired and over-familiar. However, with legendary filmmaker Werner Herzog at the helm, the digital discussion feels fascinating and exciting once more.
Herzog is a so-called “technology tourist” - he does not even carry a cell phone. This enables him to view the internet without the burden of preconceived notions - exploring both the inspirational potential of the online world and the horror of its dark side.
Herzog approaches the internet in much the same way as he has explored his other documentary film topics (such as volcanoes in Into The Inferno, grizzly bears in Grizzly Man and ancient art in Cave Of Forgotten Dreams). Beginning with the origins of the online world, he reveals its potential via fascinating interviews with experts.
It is a privilege to see the birthplace of the internet and hear details about the first online message. The passion and pride felt by early online pioneers (including Bob Kahn, inventor of some of the internet’s core protocols, and Tim Berners Lee, creator of the World Wide Web) is infectious.
Lo And Behold goes on to explore the wider potential of the digital world via conversations with entrepreneur and inventor Elon Musk, roboticist Sebastian Thrun, astronomer Lucianne Walkowicz, Adrienne Treuille of Carnegie Mellon University, physicist and cosmologist Lawrence Krauss, and infamous hacker Kevin Mitnick. It is gripping, often mind-blowing stuff.
However, the dark side of the internet is never far from Herzog’s thoughts. He interviews a grieving family who have been tormented by cruel, anonymous trolls and who now view the internet as a manifestation of evil itself.
In addition, the documentary looks at the people whose lives have been ruined by internet addiction as well as those people whose extraordinary sensitivity to the electrical fields created by wireless towers has forced them to leave their homes and live off the grid.
Herzog is also intrigued by what might happen if our connected world is interrupted. Just how long could we survive without the internet? The film’s conclusion has pretty scary implications for the entire human race.
Lo And Behold is a fascinating, entertaining and informative summary of the development of our digital world. Herzog’s newfound interest in the internet is infectious - this may only be the start of the director's online odyssey.
Herzog originally planned to create a series of six short films, each covering one aspect of the connected world. However, with the film about three-quarters finished, he suggested turning it into a 90-minute documentary.
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