While it may not serve up many illuminating revelations for more tech-savvy viewers, Werner Herzog’s new doc nevertheless delivers more of his trademark soothing philosophy alongside an exciting look towards the future of both technology and humanity.
From the origins of the Internet through to its potential to entirely reshape the human race, Herzog interviews prominent figures (including hacking “demigod” Kevin Mitnick and SpaceX’s Elon Musk) on a whistle-stop tour of the tech industry, hoping to gain perspective on the existential implications, both positive and negative, of tools that are developing at an incredible rate.
Herzog’s warm, idiosyncratic interview style and voice-over narration contribute massively to why this film works as well as it does; given the often rather basic approach to the subject, without his personality infusion it probably wouldn’t introduce enough new information to be worthwhile to many viewers. One brief segment in which he interviews a family who were relentlessly harassed by Internet trolls after the death of their daughter nearly reeks of an after-school PSA, raking over a rather pat perspective on the dangers of the Internet, even if hearing the mother in question call the web “the personification of evil” is fascinatingly sad.
The film truly finds its stride when it approaches futurism in its final third, considering the potential for the Internet and surrounding technologies to facilitate space travel, universal communication beyond Earth’s bounds, direct neural links to the web, and the “Internet of me” concept, where it would be so ubiquitous that conventional PCs and smartphones would become relatively obsolete in our day-to-day lives.
They’re wonderful, exciting concepts, albeit ones twinged in a certain inevitable sadness as most if not all of the people watching this doc won’t ever get to experience most of what is being championed. That is Herzog’s strength, to riff on mortality and the absurdity of existence, and wrapping that around what is sometimes a rather down-the-line documentary format, he effortlessly elevates it.
Lo and Behold premieres at the London Film Festival on October 13th