The great Werner Herzog is the cinema’s most curious filmmaker, and his probing camera and soft spot for eccentrics make this (fiction) feature filmmaker’s documentaries stand alone.
His wide-ranging intellectual inquisitiveness is well-served in “”Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World,” in which the 73 year-old child of World War II marvels at the revolutionary changes of the Internet Age.
Change and the speed of change is what this is all about. It’s a bit all over the place, but it’s a rewarding, thought-provoking ride, which is expected every time Herzog commits to a subject.
“Lo and Behold” is a movie that starts with a history of the Internet. He visits ‘Net pioneer and enthusiast Leonard Kleinrock (top photo) in the UCLA lab where the Internet was born, in 1969.
The first communication between computers was with a lab at Stanford. They were just logging in when both ends of the conversation experience the world’s first Web Crash. they meant to type “Log In.” They only got “Lo.”
If you don’t think Kleinrock and then Herzog will lap up that word “Lo” and the wonders it foretells, then you don’t know Herzog. “Wonder” should be the man’s first name. “Behold” could be his middle one.
“Lo and Behold” wanders into Elon Musk’s office for a chat about the web future that will aid our colonizing Mars and hangs with scientists pioneering self-driving car technology (which Musk’s company is putting on the road). The “hive mind” of the web is producing cancer research and bolstering the hunt for alien life. Herzog visits robot labs and loner Web philosophers, an astronomer or two and the town of Green Bank, West Virginia, where the presence of a super-sensitive radio telescope means there are no cell phones or cell towers and not much in the way of Internet, either.
Herzog asks if one and all if they think “the Internet dreams of itself”?
And dark prophet that he is, Herzog finds a California family assaulted online with photos of their daughter, “nearly decapitated” in a car accident — photos thoughtlessly taken by a first responder who callously passed them on by email to friends, not suspecting the unspeakable cruelty of the anonymous Groupthink of the WWW.
Herzog is drawn to wise madmen, from the actors he uses in his feature films (Klaus Kinski, Nicolas Cage, Christian Bale) to the odd ducks he stumbles across making documentaries (“Grizzly Man,” “Encounters at the End of the World“). He finds a few here, including famed hacker Kevin Mitnick.
These are miraculous days, Herzog enthuses, a time when communication has never been faster nor more widespread and available to nearly all. But as he and the disparate voices he listens to warn us, it’s time to stop and consider it all, the degrees of privacy we must insist on, the unspoken perils of turning so many jobs and so much of our thinking over to machines “which can learn” exponentially faster than the fastest human mind.
If we’re going to keep a Herzogian sense of wonder, maybe we ought to start thinking about what comes after this moment of “reverie.”
“Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World.”
MPAA Rating:PG-13 for brief strong language and some thematic elements
Cast: Kevin Mitnick, Leonard Kleinrock, Lucianne Walkowicz, and the voice of Werner Herzog
Credits: Written and directed by Werner Herzog. A Magnolia release.
Running time: 1:31