Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World

lo-and-behold-jason-solomonsWerner Herzog is on prolific form at the moment and this documentary about the early days and the imminent future of the internet has typical elements of the man’s work.

However, it does lack his usual depth and despair. Werner starts at a Californian university. “The corridors are repulsive,” he intones. Well, they’re OK, Werner, but that’s a minor detail. “Yet they lead to a shrine.”

And in a little room a tiny Jewish chap bangs a machine the size of a catering fridge and tells us this is where the first email was sent from. It was supposed to tell another computer a few hundred miles away to LOG IN, but the system crashed and all that went was LO – hence the poetically prophetic title of this film.

As for the rest of it, Werner meets some enthusiastically dull nerds who draw us diagrams and get very excited about the internet. I found it tedious in the extreme, which is very unlike a Werner film – I mean, once, he got me excited about cave paintings for god’s sake.

He sounds as bored as I was. There’s a nice bit where some robots play football and Werner wonders if they’ll be better than Messi, and they do score a couple of decent goals (we should sign up the number 8, I thought) but after that it’s chatting to Elon Musk and various other tech zealots that is spectacularly uninteresting. Normally, Herzog would push this and find some connection between banality and doomsday, but he gets nowhere.

All this film did was reinforce my belief that computers or anything to do with them make for the dullest cinema – The Social Network, Wikileaks, Steve Jobs, Apple, iPhones, the internet, emails, text messages: all of these are stultifyingly uninteresting and undramatic subjects to put on the big screen. They may be part of modern life, but they are not what make modern life worth living, any more than the knife and fork, the wheel, or the dishwasher.

As if to rouse himself for a philosophical finale, he ponders if “the internet can dream of itself?” and that gives a few boffins pause for thought, though because they’re all boffins, none of them gets fired up enough to say anything out-of-the-box or meta-interesting. Scientists aren’t paid to have meta; film makers are, but Werner’s was sadly missing here.

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