Seasoned German documentarian Werner Herzog investigates the internet and how it has changed humanity, from its birth in 1969 to the most likely manner of its death. Along the way he meets hackers, futurologists, self-driving-car designers, robots and Elon Musk.
Werner Herzog has always been fascinated by humanity’s troublesome relationship with nature, whether it’s in feature films like Aguirre, Wrath Of God or Rescue Dawn, or in documentaries like Encounters At The End Of The World or the peerless Grizzly Man. Here, in his latest, bit-of-a-mouthful doc Lo And Behold, Reveries Of The Connected World, Herzog changes things up a little and directs his attention towards our species’ place within a very different kind of landscape than Antarctic tundra or remorseless rainforest: one that’s entirely of mankind’s making, and exists only on servers.
Not that there’s been any adjustment to Herzog’s M.O. He remains ever present through his off-camera comments and distinctive, mellifluous narration, asking his interviewees wondrously leftfield, metaphysical questions (“Can the internet be imaginative?”) and making the occasional, hilariously blunt observation; “the corridors here look repulsive,” he says of the Internet’s birthplace in the campus of The University Of California… just before describing it as “Ground Zero of one of the biggest revolutions we as humans are experiencing.”
It's a colossal subject for a 98-minute film. Too big, in fact.
It is indeed big. Huge. A colossal subject for a 98-minute film. Too big, in fact. Herzog nimbly darts around this whopper of a topic, hopping from facet to facet in 10 chapters with titles like, “III. The Dark Side,” “VI. Earthly Invaders,” and “IX. The Internet Of Me”. At times, you’ll question the value of his diversions, such as when he tackles self-driving cars and the colonisation of Mars. At others you wonder why he spends so little time on a subject, like the cruelty that online anonymity can engender in people.
As such, it’s not as satisfying as Herzog’s more focused documentaries, and inherently lacks the awesome cinematography of his natural-world encounters. But, while it’s never entirely clear what his ultimate point might be (or if there is one), there are some truly fascinating vignettes and it’s hard not to love a documentarian who offers up such deep-thought, WTF pontifications as, “could it be… that the internet starts to dream… of itself?”
A thoughtfully assembled montage of snapshots of the internet epoch which raises more interesting questions than it provides satisfying answers. A lesser Werner, but still worth dipping your brain into.