Review: ‘Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World’

Hot Docs 2016

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3 mins read

Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World
(USA, 98 min.)
Dir. Werner Herzog
Programme: Special Presentations (Canadian Premiere)

 

There’s a certain almost unconditional pleasure in having Werner Herzog tackle a topic. With his unique mix of cynicism and wide-eyed wonder, Herzog’s works manage to make the mundane seem extraordinary while, conversely, pushing viewers into questioning their own ideas of otherwise splendorous things. When he enters a forbidding environment like the Antarctic or a secluded cave containing Palaeolithic artwork, we feel Herzog’s sense of discovery mixed with a bittersweet sense that somehow in his very telling of the tale, he’s ruining what made it special in its unknowability.

Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World is as poetic and silly as its title. Told in several chapters, the film is Herzog’s perambulation down the Information superhighway. For a man with Luddite tendencies the director may be a fitting guide, finding grace in the image of orange-cloaked monks trying to find a signal for their digital devices with the Chicago skyline in the background, or showing off the strange, pedestrian beauty of ground zero on the first iteration of the ‘net, the Arpanet.

The usual gaggle of strange Herzogian creatures appear, including some disturbed individuals believing they’re allergic to the radio waves permeating our environment, oblivious, of course, to the radio mics and RF radiation emitted by the film’s crew. Still as open minded as ever, Herzog presents all this without comment, letting scientist and conspiracist alike their time on screen. Similarly, he parallels those who find the hope of humanity in our interconnection, with others, who detail the horrors of cyber-bullying and betrayal that can lead to tragedy.

It may not be another masterpiece from this tremendous talent, but Lo and Behold allows us to spend time with Herzog as he comes to grips with the Internet, this most strange of human creations. It’s a reverie indeed— part dream, part nightmare—and yet again Herzog’s way of looking proves to be both illuminating and entertaining.

 

Hot Docs runs April 28 – May 8. Visit www.hotdocs.ca for more information.

 

Jason Gorber is a film journalist and member of the Toronto Film Critics Association. He is the Managing Editor/Chief Critic at ThatShelf.com and a regular contributor for POV Magazine, RogerEbert.com and CBC Radio. His has written for Slashfilm, Esquire, The Toronto Star, The Globe and Mail, The National Post, Screen Anarchy, HighDefDigest, Birth.Movies.Death, IndieWire and more. He has appeared on CTV NewsChannel, CP24, and many other broadcasters. He has been a jury member at the Reykjavik International Film Festival, Calgary Underground Film Festival, RiverRun Film Festival, TIFF Canada's Top 10, Reel Asian and Fantasia's New Flesh Award. Jason has been a Tomatometer-approved critic for over 20 years.

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