Werner Herzog’s ‘Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World’ Documents Every Angle of the Internet

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I’ve lived through a revolution. Not the kind of revolution where shots are fired and corrupt regimes toppled. I’ve lived through a technological revolution, one that has fundamentally changed the way that humans live and how society functions. Technology moves at such an accelerated rate that people can’t process how these new gadgets and forms of media affect us individually or as a whole. Of course, how the internet has changed the world and what the future holds for our ongoing technological revolution captured the attention of one of cinema’s most inquisitive minds in Werner Herzog. With Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World the legendary filmmaker explores the history and effects of the internet, even gazing into the unknown of its future potential and some of the darkest possibilities in an engaging and informative documentary.

Broken up into ten chapters, Herzog’s exploration of the internet begins with its inception, taking a tour of the room where the first computers connected through telephone lines at UCLA. Early on, Herzog talks to a variety of people who helped shape the internet in its early days, giving us context to just how much technology has exploded in the relatively short time since its inception. One of the more astounding artifacts that is documented is a telephone book containing all of the e-mail addresses from the late ‘70s/early ‘80s. It’s a thin little booklet, and its modern equivalent would stretch across miles and miles.

As Herzog’s exploration as to the history and wonders of the internet continue, the filmmaker finds himself exploring the world of robotics and self-driving cars. He’s obviously captivated by the manner with which technology is building upon itself, with great minds from around the world sharing information at the blink of an eye and slowly eliminating all the various errors. Humanity’s future in medical science, space exploration, and how we live our everyday lives lies within the expanding potential of technology, and where this may take us interest Herzog, who never takes an overly cautious or luddite-esque tone towards the world of tech.

Herzog does express caution towards the evolving world of connectivity. He travels to a secluded area where people who have found themselves addicted to the world of video games and the internet. The German filmmaker goes even deeper into the dark side of the internet, talking to a family who were the victims of crude and cruel trolls who bombarded this family with gruesome pictures of their dead daughter from a car accident. As seen in Herzog’s documentaries throughout his career, Lo and Behold represents an exploration of a topic without ever losing a sense of humanity and compassion.

Even aspects that would give me a bit of umbrage in a conventional documentary, such as people who live in seclusion from the connected world because they experience physical distress due to Wi-Fi and cellular towers. I question if the cause is physical or psychological, but Herzog never even brings up the question of validity. The simple fact that this phenomenon exists is enough for him to arrive and ask questions free of judgement, the kind of inquisitive mind that makes for a great documentarian. When Herzog poses a rhetorical question, it’s because he wants every possible answer.

Always engaging, Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World turns into an eye-opening documentary when Herzog goes into the world of internet security, talking to a variety of experts. What’s fascinating is not how Herzog explores the nature of internet security programs, but how the weakest link in security is invariably the human element. Hackers recall tales of how there were able to get their hands on top secret information not by using a keyboard, but by picking up the phone. It’s a stark reminder to all of us that the greatest threat to our online security is our own willingness to hand over information.

Towards the film’s conclusion, Herzog’s documentary takes a turn towards the apocalyptic. The filmmaker then explores the possible events that could lead to the end of our collective technological revolution in the form of solar flares. Astronomers and other experts weigh in on the possible cataclysmic event and its potential fallout. However, it never comes across as “The End is Nigh!” Instead, Herzog is highlighting a possible issue and talking to people focused on the ideas of solutions and preparations in case these darkest fears ever come to reality.

Werner Herzog is one of the great documentarians alive because he goes into his films with questions, not his own predisposed set of answers to lecture the audience. Like his other great works, Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World is an exploration of a subject from almost every conceivable angle. The internet has fundamentally changed the lives of every single person on the Earth, and such a seismic shift in how people live their lives fascinates Herzog, and we’re lucky enough that he wishes to share his fascination with the rest of us.

Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World
  • Overall Score
4.5

Summary

A fascinating exploration on the evolution of technology and how it has changed our lives, Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World is the latest documentary masterwork from Werner Herzog.

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