wed 01/03/2017

DVD/Blu-ray: Lo and Behold | reviews, news & interviews

DVD/Blu-ray: Lo and Behold

DVD/Blu-ray: Lo and Behold

Werner Herzog on the cons and pros of the digital age

Where it all started: Leonard Kleinrock at UCLA

Werner Herzog isn’t visible in his documentary Lo and Behold but he’s a constant throughout, his sonorous, quizzical tones an ideal counterbalance to some of the more scary talking heads he encounters. In essence the film doesn’t tell us anything we don’t already suspect already: that the constantly evolving internet could either ruin us or offer salvation.

Subtitled "Reveries of the Connected World" and organised in 10 short sections, the film’s title is explained in the first few minutes, an excitable academic breathlessly showing us the room in UCLA where one of the first attempts to transmit data between two computers took place. The message was meant to be a “Login” command but a system crash meant that only the first two letters made it through.

It’s a sobering leap from the more upbeat sections to the gloomier ones. Watching a team of small, cylindrical robots play football is surprisingly uplifting, and when their geeky programmer (pictured right) declares his affection for a particular member of the squad, predicting that at some point robots will beat human players, you want to cheer.

So it’s chilling to encounter the grieving parents targeted by trolls after the death of their teenage daughter, the mother stating bluntly that she believes the internet is literally the devil’s work. Accounts of Korean gamers wearing nappies so that their play won’t be interrupted by toilet breaks are deeply depressing, and we meet a therapist who cures her patients of internet addiction. There’s a pleasing glimpse of an utopian Appalachian community where the sensitivity of a large radio telescope means that wi-fi is strictly forbidden. One resident cites a hypersensitivity to radio signals as a reason for moving there, and another extols the virtues of living in a friendly community where communication is managed through face-to-face contact and landlines.

For every Eon Musk, shown planning a manned trip to Mars and pondering how to communicate with his passengers, there’s a sobering interview with a retired hacker or a scientist excited about the sun’s potential to snuff out the internet in a flash. Musk points out that self-aware computers would possibly start wars, his phrase “that would obviously be quite bad” an alarming understatement. But then another robotics expert pops up, explaining how smart robots could have prevented the Fukushima nuclear disaster. The film’s stately pace and dry humour are deceptive, and it packs a lot into its 90 minutes. Image quality and sound are good, and extras include an entertaining Q&A with Herzog, hosted by Richard Ayoade.

Watching a team of small robots play football is surprisingly uplifting

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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