Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World Movie Poster Image
Amazing internet documentary full of compassion, curiosity.
  • PG-13
  • 2016
  • 98 minutes

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Though its thesis isn't exactly laid out, the movie still leaves viewers with plenty to think about re: humans and computers, touching on as many emotional issues as technical ones. It addresses community and bullying and raises unanswerable -- but ponderable -- questions about the future. The whole movie is infused with a spirit of curiosity and compassion.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Few role models here except possibly for Herzog himself, who's endlessly curious and compassionate toward his subjects but retains the courage to step back and ask hard questions when needed. Some of the more forward-thinking scientists and engineers could inspire teens on a new path of study. On the other hand, one segment is about an infamous hacker describing his adventures (and brushes with the law), which could have a similar effect in a less-desirable way.

Violence

Stories of a family harassed online after their daughter's death. Descriptions of a decapitation. Some interview subjects are upset.

Sex

Mention of porn.

Language

A single use of "f--k." A use of "crap."

Consumerism

Motorola phone shown.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Mention of someone being drunk.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World is a tech-centric documentary by celebrated filmmaker Werner Herzog. It's a deeply thoughtful yet still entertaining exploration of the relationships between humans and computers. The film is full of curiosity and compassion; some of the segments are amazing, some are amusing, and some are heartbreaking. One segment deals with online bullying after a teenage girl's the death; in another scene, a hacker tells stories about his crimes and arrests and says "f--k" once. There are a few other iffy images/concepts and a mention of "porn," which is why the movie is most appropriate for older tweens and up, but anyone who spends a lot of time online will find plenty here to think about and discuss.

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What's the story?

In the documentary LO AND BEHOLD, REVERIES OF THE CONNECTED WORLD, filmmaker Werner Herzog attempts to explore the nature of the internet, its origins, and the unusual, wonderful, and sometimes upsetting ways in which it's been used. He recalls 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 shares a harrowing story of online harassment after a family tragedy and introduces a community of people who are literally allergic to electromagnetism and must be isolated from all computers and devices.

Is it any good?

This documentary is one of Herzog's best; it's thoughtful yet entertaining, amusing yet heartbreaking, and sometimes simply beautiful. And it should give web-savvy viewers plenty to think and talk about. 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 question.

While the film's segments, each with its own chapter title, may not seem connected, 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 isn't rigidly structured, but rather organically follows the filmmaker's own curiosity and compassion. Along with the great director's Grizzly Man, Encounters at the End of the World, and Cave of Forgotten Dreams, Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World is a must-see.

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