Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World is the newest documentary from prolific Bavarian filmmaker Werner Herzog. The film is driven entirely by Herzog's own existential musings around the increased role technology plays in our lives. Herzog is one of the Internet's favorite meme muses, but given his own perspective as a sort of Luddite, the film is much more open to ideas than if coming from the perspective of someone enamored with technlogy. But Herzog is not a man raging against the machine of technology. Rather he just wishes us all to pause, to ponder, and question how we live our lives with technology, rather than just blindly hurtling forward into greater and greater dependence. The film moves from big idea to big idea, ultimately touching on the Internet, robotics, artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, and Internet addiction. The main drawback to the film's expansive scope is that it does not provide time for Herzog to explore any one topic in depth. This easily could have been a BBC nature documentary style miniseries, with this 98 minute film serving as the palate setting opener. Some of the segments, like a firsthand trial at self-driving cars, feel self-contained, but others beg for further expansion. Herzog mostly offers a pros and cons view of each topic, letting the viewer decide for themselves how much existential malaise to bring with them when exiting the theater. But while the individual parts are satisfying, there is not much of a whole. For example, Herzog later speaks with the family of "Porsche girl" Nikki Catsouras (Internet trolls kept sending them pictures of the accident), but never connects it back to the claims that self-driving cars would prevent almost all fatal accidents.
As a conversation starter, the film succeeds on every level, and Herzog is as charming as ever (offering to go to Mars with Elon Musk is a highlight). It even offers glimpses of the more intellectual and esoteric leanings of the filmmaker when musing, "Could it be that the internet dreams of itself?" which could also make this film a good entry point for those who have only experienced Herzog via Parks and Recreation cameos, or his analysis of Kanye's "Famous" music video.
Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World opens in Philly theaters today.