Combustible Celluloid
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With: Lawrence Krauss, Kevin Mitnick, Elon Musk, Lucianne Walkowicz
Written by: n/a
Directed by: Werner Herzog
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for brief strong language and some thematic elements
Running Time: 98
Date: 08/19/2016

Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World (2016)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Tangled Web We Weave

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Werner Herzog's Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World is one of the best of his recent documentaries; it's thoughtful yet entertaining, amusing yet heartbreaking, and sometimes beautiful. It should give web-savvy viewers plenty to think and talk about. Along with the great director's Grizzly Man, Encounters at the End of the World, and Cave of Forgotten Dreams, it's a must-see. At one point, Herzog asks "does the internet dream of itself," and through a series of interviews, he spends the rest of the movie exploring that notion.

In the film, Herzog attempts an exploration of the nature of the internet, its origins, and the unusual, wonderful, and sometimes upsetting ways in which it has been used. He tells of the first computer-to-computer communication, in which only the first two letters of the word "log" were transmitted before the system crashed. He tells of a program that allows users to manipulate models of cells and molecules, possibly searching for cures to terrible diseases. But he also tells a harrowing story of online harassment after a family tragedy, as well as a community of people who are literally allergic to electromagnetism and must be isolated from all computers and devices.

While the film's segments, each with its own chapter title, may seem unconnected, they all look at ways in which humans interact with computers, the ways in which emotions figure into technology. Herzog asks the developer of a soccer-playing AI robot if he loves his creation, and the answer is yes. The people with allergies are in genuine pain, and Herzog's heart goes out to them, as well as to the victims of harassment. True to Herzog's style, the film is not rigidly structured, but rather organically follows the filmmaker's own curiosity and compassion.

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