In recent years Werner Herzog has been a prominent documentary filmmaker exploring the sparseness of the Artic, the ancient history of the Chauvet Caves and the controversy of the death penalty, in fact the guy has two documentaries out this year alone (his other film is called Into the Inferno). Herzog has explored different environments which include the Artic and the Amazon Rainforest and now he looks at the connected world and the internet, an environment with just as many dangers. Herzog’s film is about the rise of the internet, from its origins in the late 60s to the benefits and threats the internet poses today.
Critic A.O. Scott said that Herzog has the ability to “nudge his subjects off their internal scripts” which is a mark of a good interviewer as they can get genuine answers from their subjects. In his previous documentary, Into the Abyss, Herzog gets an honest emotional reaction from a Pastor who had only just previously been sprouting rehearsed nonsense about being part of God’s plan. In Lo and Behold, Herzog gets similar reactions from much of his subjects, particularly the ones whose lives have been greatly hindered by the invisible effects of technology.
In a bid to make the film more digestible Herzog splits his film into ten different parts, each part examining a different aspect of the internet from its early beginnings to its potential in the future whilst examining its dangers (addiction, abuse, data theft) in the process. There’s a segment in the film that focuses on a family who have been receiving offensive email messages attached with pictures of the daughter who died brutally in a car accident. Herzog doesn’t really focus too much on this area, perhaps underestimating its importance and how much of an affect it has on our society with online bullying and vile threats sent on social media so rampant in modern society.
Another aspect that Herzog hardly focused on was how the internet has compounded our loneliness as a society. Despite the fact we have the world at our fingertips and have the ability to communicate with hundreds of friends across the world at any given time, people have never felt lonelier. Even with the ability to contact whoever you like, whenever you like it doesn’t mean that the conversation is a valuable one or there is even a conversation at all. It becomes an interaction without the personal connectivity of a face to face conversation. It’s a topic frequently discussed, but it’s a vital one to open up a discourse. Perhaps Herzog, being the enigmatic and unique director that he is, felt he didn’t wish to discuss a topic dissected on a daily basis.
That said, the only way to include discussion about how the internet hasn’t helped create a more connected society on a spiritual and mental level would add to the running time (which wouldn’t be an issue) as other areas of discussion are of equal importance and they shouldn’t be marginalised either. The ideas presented concerning the future of the internet and asking whether the internet, in true Herzog fashion, “would dream of itself?” are just as vital as questioning the drawbacks and potential perils of the globally connected world. The question of whether the internet would ever become self-aware was one that had experts genuine stumped, and in some cases unwilling to answer and they felt they can’t predict what to expect in the future. However, all experts are in agreement that there are no boundaries in the scope and potential of the internet.
Lo and Behold is a thought-provoking documentary, we rely heavily on the internet to keep our civilisation running (especially in the more advanced world) and if the internet were to suddenly stop working, what were to come of society in the dark days we’re off the grid?