Lo And Behold, Reveries Of The Connected World

****1/2

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Leonard Kleinrock in Lo And Behold: Reveries Of The Connected World - Does the internet dream of itself? Explore the horizons of the connected world.
"This is a poetic documentary, a reverie, in which partitioned themes offer differing perspectives on the whole."

In the beginning was the word.

Since the 29th of October 1969, wen the first ever internet transmission was made, our world has undergone a revolution that has affected not only communications, technology and business but our very consciousness. Beginning with that first word, lo, Werner Herzog takes us on a journey that is focused as much on the personal and spiritual as on the electrical or mechanical. In his usual wry, observational style, he explores this vast subject through individual stories, each voice given as much weight as the last. In context, this is as humorous as it is humane - it reflects the unintended ironies that pop up in unfiltered information online - yet Herzog is gentle as ever, even when talking about absurd or appalling things, and there is never a hint of spite. Every word represents value.

It would be impossible for any such film to be fully comprehensive, and Herzog doesn't try; but if he doesn't show us everything, he lets us see enough, and we are reminded that it is in large part the internet revolution that separates us from the age when people strove to know everything. This is a poetic documentary, a reverie, in which partitioned themes offer differing perspectives on the whole. From that opening steeped in wonder yet little guessing what would unfold, we move on to meet early internet pioneers who discuss some of its conventions and reveal some of the triggers that led it to evolve as it did. We also meet a family, exquisitely framed like an heirloom portrait, who talk about the abuse they faced from strangers online after one of their number died; and we meet a group of people who consider themselves to be allergic to wireless internet transmissions, who have consequently started a new life in a remote woodland community. Even as we move on to AI and the singularity, the focus of the film remains human.

Lo And Behold is beautifully shot, its outdoor landscapes so vibrant and verdant one can almost smell them, its indoor spaces cool and shining yet welcoming as Kubrick made them, not alienating like Tarkovsky's. Herzog also has an eye for telling details - machines held together with tape, others that need to be thumped before they work, and the capacity for these small flaws and oddities to function as nodes for the accumulation of love. There are no visible flaws in Elon Musk's towering laboratories, where work is underway on the spaceships of the future. Musk produces his usually carefully prepared passionate spiel, yet even he is silent for an instant when the director requests a one way ticket. no real attempt is made to conceal Herzog's own passion. The future is coming, full of dangers glimpsed and unimaginable - let us run to it.

The tide of information, real and unreal, in which we now flounder requires new skills to navigate. Curation is the trick. Herzog does it well. In time to come, when little of what's out there now ever swells up to the surface, this testament may survive - less as a record of how it all happened than as a Rosetta Stone helping our descendants make the interpretative leap between their world and our disconnected past. It might be a sequel of sorts to Cave Of Forgotten Dreams, another portrait of a social paradigm shift. Will androids dream of electrically rendered horses flickering in the dark?

Reviewed on: 10 Dec 2016
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A documentary about the internet and its impact on human experience.

Director: Werner Herzog

Year: 2016

Runtime: 98 minutes

BBFC: 12 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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