Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World (4 stars)

Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World

Werner Herzog is at it again, this time probing the origins and potential of the internet

Werner Herzog's personal style of documentary-making is unique. With his clipped German voice posing unusual but intelligent questions, Herzog chooses to remain behind the camera throughout this offbeat investigation of the development of the internet – but Lo and Behold is so idiosyncratic it could only have been made by the celebrated filmmaker.

The title comes from the text of the first message ever sent online – sent with the word 'login' truncated to 'LO', a happy accident. Herzog takes this as his cue to exhibit a Biblical sense of wonder through ten chapters which detail the ways that online communication has changed the world, and ponders how it might develop. 'Do you think the internet can dream of itself?' is the kind of gnarly enquiry Herzog puts to his experts, and their detailed answers are recorded with friendly gravitas.

Herzog only briefly considers the darker side of his subject, with a sombre chapter in which he interviews a family whose personal tragedy was exacerbated by images going viral. But otherwise, the director is carried along by boundless enthusiasm for his varied interviewees: from Kevin Mitnick, full of playful bravado about how he outwitted authorities as a hacker, to the residents of Green Bank, West Virginia, a community experimenting with alternative lifestyles to avoid technological contact.

Joydeep Biswas, a scientist who believes he can build a football team of robots good enough to defeat a human team by 2050, provides Herzog with an eccentric figure who matches his own obsessive zeal. The amusing and inspiring Lo and Behold reveals that Herzog has no interest in the chatter of social media, but wants to have a deep conversation about the potential for human achievement through computers, just as Biswas passionately believes in unlocking the potential of his beloved machines.

Selected release from Fri 28 Oct.

Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World

  • 4 stars
  • 2016
  • US
  • 1h 38min
  • 12A
  • Directed by: Werner Herzog
  • Cast: Elon Musk, Lawrence Krauss, Lucianne Walkowicz
  • UK release: 28 October 2016

Herzog remains behind the camera for this investigation of the development of the internet, only briefly considering the darker side of the subject, but generally carried along by boundless enthusiasm for his interviewees and a Biblical sense of wonder that leads him to ask questions like 'Do you think the internet can…