Werner Herzog likes to walk the Philosopher’s Walk. His curiosity seems to be never-ending. This time he turns his attention to the birthplace of internet and some of the consequences, since the first message was sent in UCLA in October 1969. Once his curiosity moves to a certain topic, it is hardly unlikely to look at somewhere else. Lo and Behold: Reveries of The Connected World brings back to the cinema some of Herzog’s obsessions, such as nature and death, with a profund and meditative voice and an inspiring humour.
But how do nature and death relate to the internet and electronic devices? The German documentarist interviewed a range of specialists and eccentric individuals who somehow were affected by the web. He finds a family who lost a member in a terrible accident and still today they receive many emails of people who took a shot of her disfigurated body. For the mother, “The internet is the spirit of the evil”. Lo and Behold recovers images of the most bizarre and unlikely twists of life. Similarly to his previous Even Dwarfs Started Small (1970), this documentary goes around in circles in order to question if whether a cyber war has already started and we don’t even know it. In his previous feature film there was no reference to cyberculture; instead these acts of rebellion were directed linked to social-historical elements of the time.
Herzog also travels to an isolated valley in the US where recluses live in direct contact with nature, most of them suffering from a terrible condition: high sensitivity to the radiation of cell phones. Radiation is invisible, but its effects aren’t. We recommend that you also watch the doc Death by Design (Sue Williams, 2016) for more insight into the dirty consequences of our digital technology.
Lo and Behold also mentions addiction, and investigates a critical case in South Korea. A couple was playing a game for hours and hours and their kid starved to death. Some young Koreans wear diapers so that they can continue to play video games without having to go to the toilet.
The film goes deep into the mind of hackers and FBI agents. It points out that in 1969, when they started the web, it was a controlled community and everybody knew each other. So there wasn’t any protection against spying. Maybe Snowden began his activities under the same spirit. It is curious that Lo and Behold will be presented at London Film Festival hours before Snowden (Oliver Stone, 2016).
Shifting from the birth of the web to hackers is not what makes Lo and Behold a great movie, though. It is the grace of the interviewees that conquers us all. Herzog captures people’s expressions seconds before they start to “act” for the camera. He rolls alongside the stream of thoughts of their characters, transforming them into a pure object. Their image comes before their words – this is more important than what they have to say.
Lo and Behold: Reveries of The Connected World is out in cinemas across the UK and much of the world on Friday, October 28th.
Watch the movie trailer below: