Werner Herzog interviews hackers, roboticists, and the pioneers who created the Internet.
Directed by Werner Herzog
Initial Review by Jon Kissel
If I’m skeptical of Herzog’s stance, and I am, it’s not like he’s unskilled of communicating what that stance is. Herzog’s work distilled to a single word, based on the small percentage that I’ve seen, is hubris. It’s the nerds who birthed the Internet whose hubris he’s interrogating, but theirs is a benign and optimistic version. If a problem with the present Internet is the viciousness brought on by anonymity, that’s because those founders all knew each other and couldn’t envision a world of egg avatars using their networks to sling racial slurs at strangers or taunt grieving parents. That short-sightedness leads into a world so completely run by the Internet and its logistical buddy, just-in-time supply chains, that one of those when-not-if natural disasters like a particularly potent solar flare could instantly wipe humanity back hundreds of years. In that glorious future where the electromagnetic-sensitive finally get some relief, no one’s going to know how to take care of themselves anymore thanks to all the dulling of critical thinking that the Internet has also engendered.
What keeps Lo and Behold from being a barely-compelling rant against modernity is Herzog himself, the charmer. I love the sound of his voice, from the way he pronounces diapers (di-a-pers) to his deep fondness for the coin whirlpool when he visits the radio telescope. There’s mostly sarcasm when he laments not being able to talk about the ‘malevolent dwarf druid’ with the recovering video game addict, but there’s some disappointment, too. Cinematically, Herzog always manages to find an image more potent that his poetic waxings, and here, the winner is either the delicacy of the Japanese robot pouring a glass of juice or the simple pan from burned out factory buildings in Pittsburgh to the gleaming robotics factory immediately next door, like something out of Sim City.
Lo and Behold is fatally flawed in how much it tries to take on, but for me, Herzog’s likable in anything he does. Some level of drilling down was required here. His movies at least inspire enjoyment, and often times, love. This one is towards the enjoyment end of the spectrum. If that’s not quite praise, it’s not derision, either. C+