As the camera lingers on one of the illustrious white hallways within ULCA, the place where the internet, one of the most significant innovations of our time, was born, the soothing voice of the narrator breaks through the angelic setting to announce “the corridor here looks repulsive.” It is moments such as this which make the works of Werner Herzog such a delight. In Herzog’s latest documentary, Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World, the director takes an expansive look at the impact of the internet on society.
Viewing the internet as “one of the biggest revolutions we as humans are experiencing,” and told over the course of ten chapters, Herzog leaves no stone unturned when pondering our dependency on technology. Not only does the film touch on the humble beginnings of the internet, but also the various ways in which technology has both improved and damaged our lives. Talking to numerous individuals and innovators across a wide range of disciplines, Herzog dives into the science behind the internet, and the wealth of technology and creativity that has spawned from it.
While these technological advancements, especially in the medical field, are something to marvel, Lo and Behold is most intriguing when it touches on the human ramifications. It is here where Herzog is able to expose the darker aspects of the internet. Shining a light on a family whose personal tragedy became entertainment fodder for those who find joy in fueling others’ grief. The film shows that the lawless nature of the internet is only one of the many facets eroding society. Herzog also does not shy away from focusing on those who are becoming physically ill from technology.
This is not merely the folks who suffer from internet addiction, the new unconscious drug of choice for many people, but also those who suffer severe reactions to electric waves. Often suffering in silence, these individuals are forced to seek refuge in quiet zones, pockets of land free of wifi and cell phone signals. They have left their families, and the world they know, in a desperate attempt to quell the excruciating pain that technology inflicts on their bodies.
Considering the expansive net that Herzog casts, there are times where Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World would have benefitted from a more narrowed focus. While Herzog provides plenty of food for thought, it often feels like a great buffet of appetizers rather than one memorable meal. Enjoyable and insightful, Lo and Behold will have audiences both praising and fearing the wonder that is the internet.
Thursday, Apr 28, 9:45 PM, TIFF Bell Lightbox
Friday, Apr 29, 1:00 PM, Bloor Hot Docs Cinema
Tickets can be purchased at the Hot Docs website.