We all live with the Internet, whether we want to or not. Our lives have been forever altered by connectivity. Werner Herzog is not an active user of the ‘net, but he is a man of boundless intellectual curiosity. In his latest documentary he takes a wide-ranging look at the origins, goals, dangers, roadblocks and possibilities of the Internet.
To trace this history and predict the future he has sought out pioneers, inventors, scientists, dreamers, and even a few quacks (albeit articulate ones) for a series of talking-head-style interviews. Herzog doesn’t appear onscreen but his presence is always felt and sometimes heard off-camera. By acting as the audience’s ombudsman we get the kind of answers we seek and deserve about this all-encompassing presence in our lives.
Lo and Behold is not a highly cinematic endeavor but it is utterly compelling. Over the course of ten segments, or chapters, Herzog zigzags from robotic soccer players to a human community that lives completely off the grid. His subjects are varied and unexpected but they all express themselves quite well. I was unfamiliar with Kevin Mitnick, the “king” of hackers, but he is every bit as interesting as Elon Musk.
Herzog has a habit of lingering on their faces after they have completed their statements for an extra beat or two. These moments can be awkward, revealing, or simply odd, but they mark this as the work of Werner Herzog and not a robotic editor. He finds fascination in the ordinary as well as the exceptional; that’s what makes him an exceptional documentarian.