LO and behold: reveries of the connected world
Reviewed by luke hally
Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World is the latest piece of documentary work from the mind of the critically acclaimed director, Werner Herzog. This particular piece from the great documentarian comes at a time of significance, as we are living at the forefront of the technological revolution popularly known as the ‘Internet Age’. The relevance of Lo and Behold really adds to the impact of the core message of the narrative, as the film covers the development of the internet from its conception and its impact on our society today, as well as pondering the possibilities of the impact it might have in the future.
Herzog’s use of structure within the documentary is one of its strongest suits, as his filmmaking ability is evident within the arrangement of a narrative which draws from past, present and future. Along with this core focus on these three areas of time, it is further segmented into individual sub chapters, which cover various topics pertaining to the internet and its impact on our society. This particular structure serves to not only grab the attention but it also aids in a refreshing feeling for the viewer without the topic becoming stale.
Herzog’s personality adds to the feeling of wonderment in Lo and Behold as he includes a particularly interesting selection of people, whom he interviews with the same sense of curiosity as I had when watching them talk about their experiences and involvement with the internet. A standout is Leonard Kleinrock, one of the original scientists who contributed to the development of the ARPANET, the precursor to the internet. In Lo and Behold, he speaks on the effects of the development of the internet upon society, as well as on the significance of the site of its foundation (in UCLA), while smashing the side of the original ARPANET server with the palm of his hand to show its military grade sturdiness. Herzog utilises these eccentric individuals within the documentary to add not only a variety of angles upon the internet's impact on society, but also a human element, showing how the experiences of individuals have been influenced by the advent of the internet age. The decision to utilise this form in the documentary, gives us a deeper understanding of the topic.
The major pitfall of the documentary was the fact that, although structurally well made, it doesn't add anything particularly new to the narrative. The topics of internet addiction, trolling, hacking and the internet being the devil are all subjects that come up time and time again in the debate surrounding the impact of the internet on society. All of these discussion points appear once the documentary with no fresh treatment. However, Herzog’s decision to incorporate individual testimony somewhat redeemed this flaw, for as played out as these topics are, the perspectives of those discussing them are still intriguing.
The segments of the documentary which discuss what possibilities lie in wait for our civilisation, although featuring particularly interesting discussions about elements such as robotics and AI, fall short of truly grabbing the attention. This was due to the fact that the optimism of these amazing prospects was broken up when they were paralleled with somewhat illogical and pessimistic anecdotes on the possibility of civilisation collapsing upon the advent of a supercharged solar flare knocking out all of earth's communications, with comparisons made to a 19th century flare which knocked out telegram communications made by astronomer Lucianne Walkowicz. Thankfully though reality came back into play somewhat during an interview with notable eccentric billionaire Elon Musk, who speculated that if such a disaster were to happen, society would merely regress and slow down for a period of time. It is ironic that this perspective of realism comes from a man who believes that we’re living within a simulation.
Overall Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World is an extremely well made film, especially in its structure, the selection of the interviewees and the way they are interviewed by Herzog which adds to the enjoyment of watching the documentary.