Movie: Lo and Behold
My Rating: 4 stars
Werner Herzog is a thoroughly ridiculous man. And, that’s what makes him one of the best documentary narrators. His interviewing style is the most bizarre combination of true fascination, almost alien cluelessness, and amusing passive aggression. It’s pretty hilarious—intentional or no. So, this guy is capable of making just about any subject matter very amusing, no matter how dull. In this documentary, Herzog takes on the topic of “The Internet.” And, he interviews a host of individuals about the topic, including computer scientists, cyber security experts, gaming enthusiasts, robotics engineers, hackers, technophobes and more. Some of them are very pro-internet. Some are optimistically cautious. And, others are flat out terrified of the day when robots will take over the world and come to exterminate all of humanity.
Many of these interview subjects are very different from one another. But Werner Herzog approaches them all with the same attitude—one of condescending bemusement. It’s like he’s nudging the audience as if to say, “Check out these weirdos.” (The irony!) Some of them pick up on the tone and play along with good humor. Others do not, and either unwittingly humiliate themselves, or are outright offended. It almost makes me feel bad for some of these guys. But then, the only people who will be witness to their shame are people who go to see Werner Herzog movies, and we aren’t exactly a vicious crowd. But, there’s no way I can’t feel sorry for the poor folks who are living in dread, preparing for the robot apocalypse (or whose parents have sent them to a deprogramming camp to cure their “internet addiction”.
As is the case with any Werner Herzog documentary, I can’t really tell what side he comes down on with regards to the whole topic of “the internet.” He’s definitely making fun of some of his interview subjects. But, others seem to cause him some real alarm. Perhaps I’d describe Herzog as optimistically ambivalent. He’s generally ready for all the exciting technological leaps we’ll be making together as a society. But, he’s definitely ready to grovel if his cooking/cleaning/helper robot ever decides to come at him with a kitchen knife. But, Herzog’s opinion doesn’t really matter. The interesting part is witnessing the amazingly diverse array of experts he’s managed to bring together for this project. I saw this one in the theater, and I’m not necessarily recommending you go to those lengths, but this movie is definitely worth a rental.