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Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World
Directing: B+
Writing: B+
Cinematography: B+
Editing: B+

A documentary about the global impact of the Internet is about as broad a subject as you could get. Who better to give it a singular vision and focus than an oddball like Werner Herzog? Indeed, it is difficult to think of another filmmaker whose name alone is the reason to see a movie like this one.

Imagine the footage he must have had. Granted, this is likely the case for any film project, but Herzog whittles this down to 98 minutes. He breaks it up into ten chapters, each with a succinct focus. Naturally, the very first one takes us to the giant computer box credited as the birthplace of the Internet, now residing in a UCLA basement. As usual, Herzog makes no effort to curb his own quirkiness, making a side comment about how "revolting" the corridors look.

The man in front of the camera, professor Leonard Kleinrock, looks upon this machine with unbridled reverence. He tells the story of the first word ever sent from machine to machine, how the world login it was truncated when the system crashed, and how it ties into the phrase lo and behold: an apropos comparison to the dawn of the Internet.

That was in 1969, and here we are. Herzog doesn't spend a huge amount of time on the history of the Internet since then up to this point, but rather focuses on its implications in the present and for the future. In his chapter about the dark side of the Internet, which alone could fill a hundred documentaries, he presents just a small few case scenarios. In one rather fascinating segment, he positions a single family around their kitchen table (covered in what appear to be baskets of fresh baked muffins) to interview them about the daughter who was in a terrible car accident. Her nearly decapitated head was photographed, posted to the Internet, and then people all over sent it directly to them. The mother talks about how the Internet is "a manifestation of the AntiChrist" and represents pure evil. Ironically, the way Herzog lingers on this family and their nearly deadened faces, these people themselves come across as creepy. One never knows how deliberate Herzog is being about these things.

And then he moves on to solar flares. Some scary shit there about how it could disrupt a world dependent on the Internet for everything right down to its food systems.

Werner Herzog is all about extremes, though, and he presents just as many ridiculously optimistic people as the negative ones. For every hermit living off the grid (not just that, but convinced living near cell tower radioactivity was literally killing them -- they're all better out in nature now!), there's an Elon Musk, working on sending people to Mars. Naturally, Herzog makes things awkward by interjecting as soon as he can to say he would happily go on a one-way trip to Mars.

The guy I liked the most was the one who said anyone who professes to predict what will happen in the future is not someone you can trust. Herzog presents all these best- and worst-case scenarios for the "connected world" we live in, which is still in its infancy. Solar flares, hackers, the inevitability of microchipped brains, artificial intelligence, Herzog covers it all. And he organizes it strikingly well, and gives the story he tells the flavor of his singular personality. Werner Herzog has never pretended to be objective in any of the films he's made, with mixed results. This is one instance in which the result is totally worth your time, if only to make you think about things, and maybe be a little entertained.

I couldn't go so far as to say Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World offers any singular, or even particularly new, insight into the Internet Age. It presents possibilities of extremes, both delightful and horrifying. The truth of our connected future is probably somewhere in the middle. But that wouldn't make a movie anywhere near as compelling as this one is.

The jarring cultural transition from analog to digital is the focus of LO AND BEHOLD: REVERIES OF THE CONNECTED WORLD.

Overall: B+
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