A first-hand account of two controversial sexual assault cases.
Directed by Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk
Initial Review by Jon Kissel
In my Lo and Behold review, I wasn’t a fan of the predictable spot that Werner Herzog landed on. There was a solid chunk of that film that pooh-poohed technology, a generally boring take for even someone as engaging as Herzog. He’s not quite curmudgeonly, wondering what’s wrong with kids these days, but there’s an air of it, particularly when Lo and Behold tiptoes up to gaming. He would likely shake his head in wonderment at Audrie and Daisy, observing how the Internet serves here as a tool that magnifies and enables bad behavior, of which teenage boys are eager to dive into headfirst. These are tragic stories of isolation and ostracization, where the Internet makes the world smaller and more insular instead of the opposite ideal that the founders and inventors, whom Herzog interviewed, intended.
Brian Knappenberger’s previous documentary, The Internet’s Own Boy, was about the life and death of Aaron Swartz, a wunderkind who hacked the JSTOR paywall, was viciously prosecuted by the Justice Department, and subsequently killed himself. Swartz was involved in the fight against the SOPA/PIPPA bills, so the film also worked as a kind of call to action against corporate control of the internet as well as a compelling story of a unique individual. Nobody Speak: Trials of the Free Press is clearly the work of the same director. Knappenberger is plainly invested in the free flow of information, no matter what it is or where it’s generated, and the forces aligned to staunch it. Like any agitprop filmmaker, he also unambiguously crafts his message for maximum manipulation. Whether the film works on the viewer depends on how willing they are to get on board with that message. I was skeptical about Swartz going in to The Internet’s Own Boy, but Knappenberger convinced me of his cause. In Nobody Speak, he’s less focused and alternatively chooses a difficult subject and an easy one, resulting in a mixed success.
The iconic, unique, jack-of-all-trades Werner Herzog sets his sights on a topic as large as the Internet in Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World. If that seems like far too big a bite for any documentary to chew, then Herzog is right in line with the characters and real figures he likes to make movies about. Films like Fitzcarraldo, my personal Herzog favorite, find its protagonist dragging a steamship up steep jungle hills, all so he can corner the rubber market and, through a series of further wild-eyed steps, bring opera to South America. My favorite of his documentaries, Grizzly Man, is about an animal rights zealot convinced that his love for bears is shared by the bears themselves, until one eats him and his girlfriend. Herzog himself is the hubristic one in Lo and Behold, not for thinking he can master nature through sheer force of will like so many of his protagonists and subjects, but in thinking that he can wrap his arms around a subject so huge. It’s a move that makes for a film that barely surpasses the level of an unnecessary primer for technology that most people use every day, but big foolish steps are perfectly in keeping with Herzog’s career.
JUST SOME IDIOTS GIVING SURPRISINGLY AVERAGE MOVIE REVIEWS.
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