‘Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World’
Director: Werner Herzog
3 (out of 5) Globes
Werner Herzog makes a movie about the Internet — you can probably guess how that will go. He’ll have wacky interviews with excitable nerds. He’ll ask bizarre questions the way people ask about the weather. He’ll come off as a grumpy luddite who’s nonetheless drawn like a moth to the idea of how technology will affect human evolution. You probably can’t predict he’ll say of a college building that “the corridors look repulsive.” But you won’t be surprised when he does.
But don’t underestimate him. Right now the German filmmaker and madman is an Internet bestie — a viral star who just the other day trended on Twitter, for a video in which he gave typically obtuse “live commentary” to Kanye’s “Famous” video. Herzog's fame is well-deserved; he’s been the type of eccentric the Internet gewgawed over since it was created, which, as we see in his Internet doc "Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World" (of course it's called that), was in 1969. And though Herzog’s just being Herzog — he still doesn’t own a phone, let alone a smart one — this turn is a bit depressing. He’s like a cool band that suddenly tops the charts and becomes just another brand.
And yet there’s still value to his shtick, especially if you can see past its stickiness. In “Lo and Behold,” Herzog quickly shuffles through all the big points around a life ruled by gizmos. It recognizes cons as well as pros: Internet bullying on one side, advances in medical knowledge on the other. He hangs with patrons of a rehab center for Internet addicts, who’ve tried to return to nature and embraced bad bluegrass jam sessions. He listens to eggheads who point out that, before the Net went mainstream, it was so small that no one thought to instill privacy features. After all, everyone logged in knew each other. But he does seem to think soccer-playing robots are pretty cool.
“Lo and Behold"'s segments are short, especially the one about bullying, and we can slowly intuit he has no agenda. For this isn’t a smug broadside against the global village. Much as Herzog mourns (in that voice) over the dark side, he’s also smitten with the possibilities in a future we have no way of predicting. One talking head floats the (probably very likely) idea that humans may one day prefer the companionship of machines, not other humans. Herzog doesn't seem wholly convinced that's a bad thing. He can be hard to predict, that Herzog. The Internet, even his longtime fans may want to fence him in, reduce him to a fun nut whose famously insane rant from “Burden of Dreams” you post on your friend’s Facebook wall. (Here it is!) But he always manages to break free.