Lo and Behold: A Director's Haunting Introspection on the Internet

How many times a day do you find yourself using the Internet? Do you run for Google every time a fact needs to be fulfilled? Do you take breaks to the tunes of Facebook, Youtube, Reddit, or Tumblr? How many of you are able to do your homework or research without Sakai or JSTOR or the Honnold/Mudd website?

I’m going to go out on a limb and say the majority of us use the Internet in some form or fashion every day, and multiple times a day. In fact, the Internet is so ubiquitous in modern Western society that it would be weird if you didn’t use it at least once per day and yet we rarely think the ramifications of using such revolutionary technology.

Werner Herzog’s new documentary, Lo and Behold: The Reveries of a Connected World, explores how the Internet invades every part of our lives, the good changes it has brought to our lives and the bad ones, and reminds us how dependent modern life is on this almost invisible entity. The film is segmented into 10 parts, 10 separate explorations into the online milieu, covering topics from the birth of the Internet to what may happen to us if it gets destroyed.

The story is global in its scope talking to people who make their living from the 20th century’s most important invention and to people who have cut the internet out of their lives entirely.

Herzog’s narration and interview skills are at his finest in this film. His quirky sense of humor shines through his off-the-wall suggestions and references. In his interview with entrepreneur Elon Musk, Musk mentions how he can’t find one person he can send to Mars and immediately Herzog volunteers himself for a “one-way ticket” to the red planet. While there are some moments where Herzog’s crazy quips feel random and unconnected, the film often finds a way to return back to his out there ideas in its music and cinematography.

However, Herzog’s more out-there ideas sometimes hit a nerve in his interviewers conscious and in the audience. In the last part of the film, Herzog seems fixated on the question “Does the Internet dream of itself?”, the question seems to dazzle the scientists, philosophers, and hackers he asks as they seem to search out what that means now and what that may mean for the future of artificial intelligence.

As the geniuses talk about the Internet evolving into a being beyond our comprehension you, the viewer is left to wonder what is going on the moment that we step away from our keyboards, when we finally put our devices down, all the permutations and connections that are being made when we step away.

While overall, the separate areas that the film explores are interesting in their own way, the fact that Herzog splits these segments up so distinctly makes the film feel tedious at times. I think it would have made the overall plot more interesting if Herzog had showed the interconnectivity between these stories more blatantly by weaving these stories together. Also, Herzog’s distanced style of narration can be off-putting at times when he discusses more emotional and especially horrific material.

Besides that, I would recommend this movie especially to fans of documentaries, particular those with Herzog’s unique sense of humor and style. The movie is a great watch; it’ll get you thinking about the tool we use and the environment we inhabit every day. Herzog is a master with the camera, leaving audiences with stunning visuals and a unique story.