The Culture Movies

'Lo and Behold' director Werner Herzog shows he is a fanatical dreamer

Werner Herzog's new documentary 'Lo' describes the history of the internet, including the current era, when the global interconnectedness it provides is fraught with both promise and peril.

  • Peter Rainer
    Film critic

If I were to choose the ideal cinematic spirit guide to the apocalypse, my first choice would be Werner Herzog. His doomy Germanic-accented baritone provides the narration for his latest documentary, “Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World,” and his familiar purr is both ominous and, well, reassuring. As long as Herzog continues to mouth his mysterioso epiphanies, it can’t be all bad. 

To be fair, “Lo and Behold” isn’t all gloom and doom – it just seems that way. It’s about the internet, from its birth pangs in a lab at the University of California, Los Angeles in 1969 to the current era, when the global interconnectedness it provides is fraught with both promise and peril.

Herzog, of course, dwells on the perilous weirdness of it all, notably in a sequence involving people whose extreme sensitivity to electromagnetic fields from cellphone towers has pushed them to live in an off-the-grid community in West Virginia that resembles a survivalists’ retreat. Later on, we are informed that solar flares can cause massive power outages on Earth. Perhaps this is why Herzog interviews entrepreneur Elon Musk describing his plan to send shuttles carrying humans to Mars. Always good to have a Plan B.

By the time Herzog introduces the idea of computers dreaming of themselves, the film skirts self-parody, but he is such a fanatical dreamer himself that you can’t really laugh. His obsessions have the imprimatur of integrity. And besides, who is to say computers don’t dream? Grade: B+ (Rated PG-13 for brief strong language and some thematic elements.)