Critics' Pick

Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World (PG-13)

Documentary 98 min. August 19, 2016
By Aaron Hillis
Late in Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World, his unsurprisingly wry, quizzical documentary survey on life inside and beside the virtual world, Werner Herzog stumps two brain researchers with a lyrical question in that instantly recognizable (and often parodied) German accent: "Does the Internet dream of itself?"

An ever-adventurous and acutely observational storyteller who has cinematically explored live volcanoes, Antarctica and the menacing company of Klaus Kinski, Herzog is a highly self-aware creature. He seems to intend this question to be grandiose, absurd and sobering all at once.

It might seem like 98 minutes would barely scratch the surface of how the digital world has affected our lives, which is partly true, but in this 10-chapter, thesis-less tale -- from "The Early Days" to the "Future," with many morally, philosophically and emotionally confrontational stops in between -- Herzog smartly takes a broad, bird's-eye perspective of our early techno-evolution.

The film is largely built on talking-head interviews with scientific experts, but Herzog's typically expressive cinematography and eye for quietly eccentric moments aren't absent. (The title comes from this semi-failed attempt, in which the machine inputted only "lo," crashing before spelling out the word "login.") He shows no interest in social media, instead aiming his curiosities toward more illuminating topics that we likely take for granted: how a multiplayer game about biomolecules was able to crowdsource scientific discoveries or how an autonomous-car engineer must deal with the ramifications of A.I. not understanding the values of human society. The final chapters concern the nature of being human and the idea that, just how the science-fiction writers of yesteryear couldn't predict this modern world, we don't know if people, sentient robots and unforeseeable next-gen tech will play nicely together.
Werner Herzog Elon Musk, Bob Kahn, Kevin Mitnick Werner Herzog Werner Herzog Rupert Maconick Magnolia Pictures

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